Greenwashing is a spin in which marketing or PR is used deceptively to promote the perception that a company’s products or aims are environmentally friendly – when in fact they are not. Why do companies choose to use greenwashing as part of their marketing program?
It’s simple – more and more consumers are opting for more environmentally ethical products, it pays to be seen as “green” right now. Think of Poland Springs water changing the design of their bottles in 2012 and claiming to be “green” for doing so – though they did reduce the total amount of plastic being used, they are still plastic bottles (made out of petroleum) that will never biodegrade. Want more examples of greenwashing?
- Volkswagen/Mercedes-Benz “clean diesel” initiative… remember when VW was sued for rigging 11 million of it’s own cards to cheat emissions.
- Reynolds American (Natural American Spirit cigarettes) – that’s right… cigarettes, they very same products that spews 7,000 chemicals into the environment, hundreds of which are toxic, and 69 of which are known to cause cancer.
- Paper plate companies that claim to be recyclable, but which in fact are not. Looking at you AJM Packaging Corporation.
- … and many, many more.
Companies should be transparent in all that they do. Look at Eileen Fisher, a certified B Corp, whose company is so transparent it’s founder openly admits that the fashion industry is among the highest polluters in the world – but is again open and transparent in what they do and how they continue to do their best to treat lightly on the environment. Or better known Patagonia, another B Corp, the very company who spawned the organic cotton movement. These are the companies the green consumer should be buying from, not those parading themselves around as being “green” when the only green they really care about is money.
So, how do you protect yourself from greenwashing? There are a few reputable certifications that you can look for when shopping.
- Look for brands that are a certified B Corp.
- Buy foods that are certified USDA Organic.
- Look for fair trade/fair labor/fair wage certifications as well as SA 8000, because people matter too.
- When buying clothes or other durable fabric goods look for a GOTS certification – which certifies a textile as being organic.
- Buy brands that are certified by Green America.
Written by: Mollie Mac, ECOBAGS® very own marketing maven. Mollie is an adventurer and a green living advocate. If you have any tips or tricks for her she’d love to hear from you, email her at: mollie(at)ecobags(dot)com