Turn on the TV, and you'll see every big brand launching new "eco-friendly products." Go out to eat, and all the major chains are suddenly following "eco-friendly practices." Scroll through social media, and every influencer is dishing out "sustainable product ideas."
Too good to be true, right? Well, maybe it is.
A side-effect of increasing climate consciousness is green washing. As more and more people demand sustainable products, some brands try to jump on the “green bandwagon” without putting in the required effort. Let's dive into this unethical practice and avoid these traps!
What is green washing?
First coined in the 1990s, green washing or “green sheen” refers to the practice of companies making false or misleading claims about their environmental impact. It is a form of false advertising that taps into a person’s climate sensibilities to get them to use a product or service.
Let us understand this with an example. Say Company A has a large-scale sunscreen business. Recently, it has been seeing some downtick in sales and its executives feel this could be due to competition from newer, eco-friendly sunscreens. Company A then decides to launch a new line of “beach-safe” sunscreens. The new line highlights the “natural” ingredients of their sunscreen and says that it is safe to use on the beach.
However, this company did not make any changes to its existing product and was careful not to give any information about the effect of using its sunscreen in water. This is because chemicals in conventional sunscreens can harm marine plants and animals. This new, clever advertising tone of the company would be categorized as green washing.
This example also helps us understand something important about this practice – green washers often spend more money on marketing and advertising than they do on finding environmentally friendly alternatives.
This practice is widespread and often very convincing. Many consumers are concerned about the environment and want to support businesses doing their part to protect it. As a result, this tactic can be very effective in persuading people to buy a product or use a service.
So, how does green washing affect consumers?
Green washing is misleading and can ultimately do more harm than good. Here are some of the ways in which this practice negatively affects consumers: -
- Companies can sometimes increase the price of a product by falsely marketing it as "sustainable."
- It can undermine the efforts of consumers and businesses to make more sustainable choices. It can also create confusion about what products are better for the environment.
- A customer may use a greenwashed product thinking they're protecting the planet. This can lead to false complacency and a lack of action, where the customer may stop seeking a genuinely green product.
- Finally, false green labels can undermine trust in the process. When consumers feel that they are being repeatedly cheated, they are less likely to believe claims of even genuinely sustainable products.
False advertisements are not only harmful to genuinely concerned customers, but they also hurt new businesses like Beco. We at Beco have put in the time and effort to come up with a wide range of eco-friendly bamboo products that are not only better for the planet, but are also good for users. Shop now!
Why do companies engage in green washing?
Companies engage in this practice for a variety of reasons. Some companies may do it to increase their profits, while others may do it to improve their public image. Still, others may do it to acquire new customers.
Companies add a green sheen to their products because finding the right solutions and implementing them can be difficult and expensive. Instead, buzzwords like "net zero" or "carbon neutral", can easily be thrown around. Corporations already have big marketing budgets, so spending on ads is not a big deal!
Types of green washing
Over the years, some big brands have been accused of adding a green sheen to their products. Many companies have tried different tactics to mislead climate-conscious consumers, giving rise to a variety of green-washed goods. Here are some types that you should watch out for: -
- A claim too good to be true, or something blatantly misleading.
- Trying to distract from the company's existing environmental impact through some auxiliary action. For example, a thermal power plant claiming to be "green" after organizing a plantation drive.
- A product with misleading imagery without even making a direct claim of being sustainable. Companies can add a misleading logo, false visuals, or a deceiving package to make their products look eco-friendly.
- Concealing the fine print by downplaying important details. Like we saw in the case of the hypothetical sunscreen company that used a clever play of words to conceal the fact.
We hope this list will help you peel off a green sheen when you next spot it.
How to avoid green washing
To avoid falling into a trap, it is important to be an informed consumer and to do your research before purchasing any product. Here are some easy steps you can follow: -
- Ask questions. Don’t take claims at face value.
- Look for specific, measurable, and verifiable claims.
- Be skeptical of companies that make grandiose claims. Claims like “most sustainable” or the “greenest,” are difficult to verify.
- Go for time-tested and indigenous products — sometimes the answer is right in front of you!
Hopefully, with more awareness, we can keep a check on this immoral and misleading practice and promote genuine solutions. So, the next time you find a green claim that is too good to be true, make sure to double-check and make the right choice! Check out our bamboo products from Beco today!