Think you're making an eco-friendly choice? Beware of the 7 sins of greenwashing lurking in plain sight!
- The Sin of Hidden Trade-Offs
- The Sin of No Proof
- The Sin of Vagueness
- The Sin of Worshipping False Labels
- The Sin of Irrelevance
- The Sin of Lesser Two Evils
- The Sin of Fibbing
Learn more about how companies trick you into buying unsustainable products.
What is Greenwashing?
In recent years, consumers have become more and more aware of the impact of their purchase decisions on the environment. As a result, many companies have jumped on the bandwagon and started marketing their products as eco-friendly. Unfortunately, not all of these claims are true, as some businesses engage in what's known as greenwashing.
Greenwashing is a marketing strategy used by companies to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers by making their products or services seem more environmentally friendly than they really are. There are different tactics used by marketers to lure you into a purchasing decision.
To help you avoid falling for false claims, we've compiled the 7 sins of greenwashing that are used by companies. By understanding these sins, you'll be able to spot more easily when companies try to deceive you.
1. The Sin of Hidden Trade-Offs
The first sin of greenwashing is the sin of hidden trade-offs. You'll encounter this sin, when companies market a product as eco-friendly in a very specific area, while it hides other, harmful traits. For example, a product could advertise its natural ingredients, but it comes in single-use plastic packaging.
2. The Sin of No Proof
This sin occurs when companies make empty claims about the sustainability of a product without proving it. One of the most popular recent examples of the sin of no proof is the claim of using recycled “Ocean Plastic” or “Ocean-Bound Plastic”. Ocean bound plastic is plastic that is of an increased risk of entering the oceans.
At first glance it may sound like a fantastic idea to support such products, but if you take a deeper look, it is often impossible to find concrete proof for these claims, as complex supply chains don't allow to trace back where the plastic really came from.
3. The Sin of Vagueness
You are coming across the sin of vagueness, when a company makes a broad and general eco-friendly claom, without giving any details on how a product is truly eco friendly. Popular examples are using "Green" in the product name, as in "Our green product line for the sustainable consumer". This claim might make you think the product itself is environmentally friendly, while the company does not commit to anything.
4. The Sin of Worshipping False Labels
Another popular sin is implying that a product was tested or certiified by a third party with false or untrustworthy label. This can mislead consumers into thinking a product was officially certified as environmentally-friendly through legitimate and thorough testing, when the label could be created by the company itself.
Whenever you read claims like "Carbon-Neutral Certified" or "100% Organic Certified", be extra-caucious and make sure you check the label for legitimacy.
5. The Sin of Irrelevance
The SIn of Irrelevance occurs when a company makes a claim about a product that is technically true, but not relevant for the product. A great example is that you will still find companies labelling their products as CFC-free. Technically that is true, but CFC were already banned in the 1990s, which makes the claim irrelevant for you as consumer.
6. The Sin of Lesser Two Evils
When a company claims that it is eco-friendly compared to a worse alternative, you're looking at the sin of lesser two evils. An example is if a food chain or coffee chain claims that their packaging is fully recyclable, but they are creating a lot of unnecessary plastic waste. Apart from that they cannot guarantee that the generated waste is actually recycled.
7. The Sin of Fibbing
Finally, we have the sin of fibbling, which could be considered the most daring. This is when a company makes an outright false claim about the sustainability of their products. Examples can include false claims about cars not emitting carbon dioxide or even claiming that traditional plastic products are biodegradable or fully recyclable, whilst not true. While these claims may seem too obvious, there are still companies using this tactic.
Sustainability is Not Just About Consumption
Keeping these 7 Sins of greenwashing in mind, we hope that you're enabled to make more conscious purchase decisions in the future. When it comes to buying eco-friendly products, look for transparent and specific claims and always do your background research to verify a claim. By being aware of greenwashing, you can support truly sustainable companies and make a positive impact on the environment.
Remember that being eco-friendly isn't just about buying sustainable products, but also means a reduction of your consumption overall and making sustainable choices.
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