Within recent years, the demand for environmentally-friendly products has grown considerably. Research has shown that a majority of consumers are willing to pay extra for products that they know to be ecological. Unfortunately, many corporations have viewed this rise in environmental awareness as a marketing opportunity; enter ‘greenwashing’.
What is Greenwashing?
- A series of misleading terms and phrases used to suggest that a company or product is ecological
- It typically exists as a form of over-exaggeration where companies embellish the truth of their environmental claims
- A form of marketing where companies are aware of the rising demand for sustainable products and benefit from this without making the actual steps to become more ecological
Sadly, this is an increasingly more common phenomenon and, as a result, is becoming much harder to spot. Fast fashion in particular, is a regular offender of greenwashing.
How to Identify Greenwashing?
Vague Phrasing – Companies and products that use vague buzzwords such as ‘green’, ‘natural’ or ‘eco-friendly’ are often guilty of greenwashing because these terms do not require any sort of checks or regulation. Look out for specific, detailed descriptions with any product claiming to be ecological
Contrasting Messages – For fast fashion brands, one of the largest contributing industries to the environmental crisis, to produce these limited ‘sustainable’ clothing ranges provides a conflicting message. Often these limited ‘eco’ ranges are an attempt to water down a company’s carbon footprint. If an environmental range or product doesn’t match up with the company it comes from, often this is a result of greenwashing.
Values – Genuine, environmentally-conscious companies are normally very proud of this fact and, therefore, their values and the steps they are taking to be more sustainable are very easy to find. Companies putting in the effort to become genuinely sustainable want to promote this; companies who are not taking the right steps will not. For a company’s values to be harder to locate often means that there is an issue with them.
Green Imagery – Many companies will adopt a ‘green’ image when launching an ‘eco-friendly’ product or range. Such imagery tends to include lots of light, plants, and natural scenery. Often, such an effort into making a product look environmentally friendly can result in less effort in actually making the product environmentally friendly. Ignore over-the-top, natural imagery and instead keep an eye out for official certification (e.g. The Vegan Trademark symbol, Fair Trade Certified)
We can see this with brands such as ‘H&M’, ‘Zara’, and ‘Urban Outfitters’. Such clothing brands are notorious for their contribution to the climate emergency with extreme production rates and unsustainable materials yet have all produced ‘sustainable’ clothing ranges within recent years.