As the tide (slowly!) starts turning towards more planet-friendly living many companies are trying to up their eco-credentials. Sometimes though, it’s done without any real basis. Today I want to talk about what it is, and how to spot greenwashing. I’d love to hear your thoughts as well!
What is greenwashing?
Greenwashing refers to the marketing technique where companies attempt to make their products appear more eco-friendly than they actually are. They’ve cottoned on to the fact many people are willing to pay more for a planet-friendly option, and so are trying to cash in on it.
Marketers and brands have realised that there are a range of key words and images that we’ve been conditioned to believe make a product more eco-friendly, so they rely heavily on them. This includes pictures like leaves or the planet, and words like natural, pure, green, eco and enviro. If you see branding that uses a combination of these approaches it’s a good idea to look a little further and read the fine print.
So, how do we spot greenwashing?
Firstly, read the ingredients list. Properly eco-friendly brands will usually state all the things their product doesn’t include (like parabens, synthetic fragrances & SLS) just as clearly as what ingredients are used. If the ingredients list on the ‘natural’ product is full of not-so-natural ingredients, then that’s a sign that greenwashing is at play.
Pay close attention to whether the packaging shows any third-party accreditation to back up their claims as well. If they call themselves an ‘organic’ product but don’t have any organic certifications then that brings their claim into question. Unfortunately not all accreditations are equal, but if you see the ‘Australian Certified Organic’ certification then you know it’s legit. There’s a good list here of all Australian ecolabels if you want to learn more!
Another tip is to check the parent company of the brand. Nowadays many of the very large companies have put out a ‘natural’ range to try and cash in, but not only do they still use a range of not-so-great ingredients, but they are helping prop up some very non-eco practices by the company on the whole.
The other great way to spot greenwashing is to hop on the brands website and do some reading. Those companies that are committed to their eco-practices usually trumpet it on their websites, with evidence, certifications and donation records. On the other hand, those that are less legitimate in their practices won’t have any of that available, and will rely on vague claims that they can’t, or won’t, provide proof of. It definitely pays to do your research!