What is greenwashing?
Many people are unfamiliar with the term greenwashing and its meaning. Greenwashing is the act of misleading consumers into believing a company's products or policies are environmentally friendly or sustainable when they aren't. The term "greenwashing" is derived from the term "whitewashing" which is defined to mean to cover up flaws or any negative aspects. Greenwashing typically occurs through companies marketing and advertising campaigns; this happens through their campaigns making exaggerated or false claims about their environmental practices to encourage more sales or success of their product. The most common claims companies use to drive sales is by using terms such as “eco-friendly”, “sustainable” or “green”, these claims being made with no real evidence supporting them. By doing this it misleads consumers to believe something that isn’t accurate and allowing them to believe that the choices they are making are environmentally friendly when they are actually not.
Over the years, greenwashing has made headlines due to its increased awareness and the wide scale some companies have committed it on. A famous example of greenwashing being committed was in the mid 80’s by the oil company Chevron. The company commissioned a series of expensive television and ads called “People Do” to show how environmentally dedicated it is. While the infamous campaign ran it was discovered Chevron was violating multiple environmental acts including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act as well spilling oil.
Chevron was only one of many corporations that made false claims when it came to sustainable practices with a more recent example being Volkswagen's false sustainability claims . Volkswagen claimed it had produced a device that could reduce emission levels in their cars, this encouraging people to buy their cars because they are more sustainable than others on the current market. It later was found out that Volkswagen cheated emission tests and in fact their cars produced up to 40 times the allowed limit for nitrogen oxide pollutants.
How much does greenwashing damage a brand's reputation?
Greenwashing can have a significant impact on a brand's reputation, and can ultimately damage it in the long run. This is because consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their purchases, and are looking for brands that are genuinely committed to sustainability. When a brand makes environmental claims, it can make some people doubt its other claims. If people feel like the brand has been dishonest about its environmental efforts, they may be less likely to trust the brand when it makes other claims. This could lead to a loss of customers and a decline in sales.
When a company tries to make itself look good by saying things that are not really true, its classified as greenwashing. It can lead to bad publicity for the company and could damage its reputation. Social media makes it easy for people to share their opinions about brands, so if a company is caught doing this it could get a lot of negative attention.
If a company makes claims about how environmentally friendly it is with no real evidence, it's usually safe to assume that they're not actually being truthful. By making untruthful claims it can lead to legal consequences for the company, as regulators are increasingly cracking down on false claims.
How can you spot and avoid greenwashing?
When you're shopping for products, it's important to be aware of what's called "greenwashing." A company can often use subtle language and imagery to make their products look more environmentally friendly than they actually are. However, there are some things you can look for to help you make more informed purchasing decisions.
1.) If a company makes vague or unsubstantiated claims about their products being "natural," "eco-friendly," or "sustainable," it's likely they're using greenwashing tactics. This means they're not really being truthful about the ingredients or production process of their products.
2.) If a product has a green certification or label, it means that the company has done its best to make the product environmentally friendly. However, this doesn't mean the product is perfect, so you should still take caution when using it. You can research these labels and certifications to make sure they are legitimate, and to understand what they mean.
3.) When you buy something, you want to know that the company making the product is doing its best to be environmentally friendly. Some companies try to be as sustainable as possible by doing things like using environmentally friendly materials, minimizing their impact on the environment, and communicating their efforts to the public.
In summary, being able to spot greenwashing means looking out for vague or unsubstantiated claims, researching green certifications and labels, and looking for companies that are as transparent as possible. This way, you can make more informed decisions about which brands to buy, and support those that are genuinely committed to sustainability.