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Haven't Heard of Greenwashing? It's Probably Working then

If you don't know, get to know!

If you haven't heard of Greenwashing, then its probably working.

Hopefully by the end of this article, your eyes will be opened a little wider to the ways in which many have been deceived and what we can do to make sure real and effective climate action is truly being taken. But first, lets define Greenwashing:

"Greenwashing is a PR tactic used to make a company or product appear environmentally friendly, without meaningfully reducing its environmental impact. Greenwashing aims to boost a company's public image or make more sales by convincing us that buying from them aligns with our values." - GreenPeace, 2022.

Why do businesses greenwash?

Companies that actively greenwash, or even unknowingly do so, are incentivised by the fact that sustainability sells!

  • 3/4 of adults in Great Britain are worried about climate change - ONS

  • The second- hand marketplace is expected to grow by 126% by 2026 - RA

  • 60% of Gen Z are willing to pay more for sustainable products and would prefer to buy from sustainable brands - RA

In today's society, the importance of fighting climate change and acting sustainability is held so highly, that businesses must keep up with the demands of their customers. As more consumers are deciding to shop greener, naturally, it is essential for companies to portray themselves as sustainable and eco-friendly to meet the criteria of consumers and be better than their competition. By doing this, they are ensuring that no business or profits are lost from those who will not buy unsustainable products. For many organisations, its all about the money and their image...

From Coca-Cola to Volkswagen, Starbucks to IKEA, there are some big-name organisations out there that have been called out, not only for greenwashing their brand, but also for acting unsustainably and actively causing damage to the climate at the same time. Click here to read more about the details of these scandals and, in some cases, illegal activity.

Soon, if businesses don't keep up their eco-friendly promises and align their values to behave sustainably, (without greenwashing!) there is a severe risk that they will get 'cancelled' or boycotted by the huge population of consumers who are determined to drive change for a better environment. With the power of social media and all of the communication platforms and technologies available in today's society, companies will not be able to get away with acting unsustainably without getting called out for it. When this happens, they are at huge risk of earning an unforgettable reputation... and not the good kind. This type of backlash is a relatively new concept, or challenge, that businesses face, as Generation Z (people born between 1997 and 2012) are able to voice their opinions and gain the support of others online extremely easily when it comes to issues that they care about the most, especially climate change and sustainability.

Who to blame; Business or Consumer?

But can we really blame businesses for wanting to appeal to more people? It is easy to understand that businesses would see the opportunity to capitalise from certain consumers who are searching for products that meet their sustainable criteria, and even go as far as changing their product offering completely to meet these demands. Whether this is from a place of genuine concern for how their business activity is affecting the environment or not, it is usually hard to distinguish. Even certain organisations who have made bold statements about their core beliefs and values surrounding sustainability may have only done this to avoid losing their customers.

Don't get me wrong, this is not to accuse companies of intrinsically lying about what their individual employees believe in, but as a whole, the level of caution surrounding corporate beliefs and any business activity is sky high, for good reason! It is important to notice that this type of accountability can be seen for consumer activity too; individuals who appear to be unsustainable shoppers, or those who support businesses that have acted in a non eco-friendly way in the past, are often 'cancelled' and receive hate online. In many cases these people are blamed instead of the company itself, because giving any money or attention to them is regarded just as badly as the company is.

How do we break the cycle? Businesses need money, consumers need products and services. If either one greenwashes the way they do business or act in their daily life, a negative response is formed, therefore businesses and consumers must both work equally as hard as to not have a negative influence over the other. But how?...

What next?

If you're new to this concept; then 1) where have you been?! and, 2) It's ok, we all need to start somewhere.

  • Here are some simple ways you can make small changes to your own consumer behaviours that will lead to positive change. Remember that no action is too small to contribute to positive change and that if we all do our little bit, only good can come of it!

  • For those more up for a challenge, ready to take on greenwashing for good, then here and here are some ways you can spot greenwashing. What you do next is up to you, but you won't be alone, and this endeavour could lead to the next big thing... so good luck!

As a consumer, you have the right to know about the products you buy and as a business they have the responsibility to be honest with their customers. For many, this is just the start of the journey to being able to maintain a good balance that could eventually lead to great things for our planet.

If we all keep working together with openness, truth and good intentions, we can only hope that Greenwashing will only be reffered to as a thing of the past.


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