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Spot and Stop Greenwashing

You may have heard of the term 'Whitewashing' which is defined as using false information to hide wrongdoing. Greenwashing plays on this concept and is just as common, this article defines and explains this concept and advises you on how to spot this and tackle climate change.

What is greenwashing?

The Cambridge dictionary defines Greenwashing as an attempt to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is. This is used by many businesses who try to capitalise on the growing demand for environmentally friendly products. This is misleading and conveys a company's products as being good for the environment by deceiving consumers through the 3Rs which are renaming, rebranding, and repackaging.

How does greenwashing occur?

Many companies who are well renowned for being non-environmentally friendly are using this concept to try and change the face of their business, such as conventional energy companies who are known as some of the the biggest carbon emitters are trying to label themselves as advocates of sustainability through Greenwashing. This can occur when a business uses the term "eco-friendly" and "sustainable" on their packaging as these are vague claims which cannot be verified. Furthermore, images of wildlife on packaging are traditionally used to greenwash as they can highlight environmental friendliness despite the product being harmful, this can result in consumers happily purchasing these items despite not understanding the consequences of them. Many companies emphasise and heavily market the sustainable aspects of their products to cover up the damaging parts which affect the environment.

Those businesses who participate in greenwashing spend a large sum of money on marketing themselves as environmentally friendly rather than implementing practices which will minimise their impact on the environment.

A famous example of greenwashing

In 2015, Volkswagen were charged for installing software into their diesel-powered cars which allowed the vehicles to cheat on EPA emissions tests. This scandal proved to be extremely expensive leading to $30 billion in fines and damages and the company was at a survival risk. Demonstrating the impacts on Greenwashing and how this must be stopped to ensure a safer, sustainable future.

The impact of greenwashing?

Greenwashing makes it hard for consumers to tackle climate change at home, as many people fall into the trap of buying a product labelled as "sustainable" or "recyclable" as they believe it is helping the environment, not understanding the concept of Greenwashing and how this particular product may be causing more harm than good. Many consumers make decisions based on emotions so greenwashing tap into the good conscience of customers. In the future, consumers may be reluctant to purchase products labelled as environmentally friendly as they may begin to not trust these claims so the progress to a more sustainable future may be stunted.

How do I spot greenwashing?

Greenwashing is hard to spot but here are 4 ways in which you can tackle this, taking a step to an environmentally friendly world.

  1. A clear way you can spot this when shopping is by looking at companies who back their environmental claims with facts and details as many genuinely green companies will do this instead of just throwing around the terms "environmentally friendly", "eco-friendly", and "sustainable".

  2. Secondly, you can overcome this is by doing your research and looking for authenticity, if a brand has suddenly become plant-based look into their previous values and understand whether they could be changing to a more environmentally friendly company, or whether this is greenwashing.

  3. Checking claims are backed up by a 3rd party is another way this can be prevented; this will credit the statements the company is making an allow you to make positive purchasing choices.

  4. Finally, if you are trying to tackle climate change from home and become more sustainable with your purchases, you may need to invest more money and time into your purchases.

Overall, it is clear that Greenwashing is commonly used by many companies big and small, this can be both obvious and subtle depending on the way this is done. It is important to bring awareness to this topic so consumers have a genuine understanding of brands and whether they are environmentally friendly.

This will help us take the small steps needed to tackle climate change from our own homes.


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