And how do I know exactly what is Greenwashing and what isn’t?
It was the first thing that came to mind after I learned about this ugly trend.
If you still don’t know what greenwashing is, I encourage you to go to the previous post to know more; this way you will be able to better understand what I am going to tell you today, which is quite important.
How do we recognize Greenwashing?
Although sometimes it’s a bit complicated to do so, there are some guidelines we can follow so that we are not fooled by these companies:
- Green is the most commonly used. Be wary of green packaging or images of nature. Take a good look at them, read the label and confirm if they have an eco-label or certificate. We are usually fooled by photos or designs where green stands out a lot; a color totally associated with nature and ecology.
- Sometimes brands have one or two products that they have made taking into account sustainability, but that does not mean that the brand is sustainable. That’s what they want you to think so that you keep buying other products from them. Greenpeace evaluates brands to see which ones are making a real effort for sustainability.
- On the other hand, there are companies that do seek to be sustainable and are on that path, although they are not yet 100% sustainable. Let’s remember that this is a journey that sometimes takes time.
- Get informed, read labels, research on the Internet. There are many forums and blogs where you can collect information.
- Find out about the right labels/certificates so you can recognize them; there are many, but at least learn the most important ones. I have to admit that I’m not an expert in this organic/ecological certificates thing; although I can research and write a post. If you would like me to do so, please leave a comment :).
- Whenever there are standard phrases, like: 100% natural, ecological, vegetable, handmade, traditional … be suspicious. Nothing that is manufactured on a large scale is 100% ecological or natural. Already with the packaging itself, some sustainable violation has surely been committed!
- Make your purchases calmly and thoughtfully, this way you can choose the products you need wisely.
- Go ahead and ask the company questions about something in particular. Let them know that we care about what we buy.
- Be careful, because sometimes packaging can be recycled (which is great) but it’s not recyclable; or the ingredients or other components of the product are not as sustainable.
- There are inconsistencies that hurt. Many earth-friendly, ecological or organic products come packaged with a lot of plastic.
- Trust the European Eco-Label and ECO-BIO products and certified stamps like the Rainforest Alliance.
- On the road to sustainability, you have to be open-minded and patient; there are companies that are making a change for the better and that takes time, effort and money.
- It’s important not to make a quick judgment, one way or the other; first look for information so you can make a verdict.
- Do not assume that everything sustainable is a lie. Keep in mind that there are many companies and brands that strive to be eco-friendly and sustainable.
- You surely have friends or colleagues who are specialists in environmental issues. Don’t criticize or judge them… They are working to make the world a better place and above all, they know about this kind of thing and you can turn to them for any environmental questions.
One last advice.
There is a good documentary called “The Green Lie” (2018) by director Werner Boote that talks and criticizes this phenomenon. It stars Werner Boote himself and Kathrin Hartmann, a greenwashing expert with several books published; It Doesn’t Get Greener; End of the Fairytale Hour; and From Controlled Overuse.
The documentary confronts the position of a consumer with a certain ecological awareness, but who does not question what the big companies tell him; as well as the harsh reality of the supposed green practices of the big industries.
Companies that have commited greenwashing
To finish, here are some examples of Greenwashing to help you see more clearly how some companies do or did to appear to be more “sustainable”:
- McDonald’s has been accused of greenwashing several times, they want us to believe that their raw materials are more sustainable. The truth is that their products need a lot of ingredients that they don’t disclose to us and we don’t know where they get them from. This is to make a summary of everything because it is clear that it is a total inconsistency.
- Exxon Mobil (a US oil company) carried out a communication campaign to publicise its efforts to reduce greenhouse gases, although its total emissions were increasing rapidly.
- Coca-Cola launched an advertising campaign in Argentina for a new “green” product: “Coca Cola life”. It was sweetened with stevia instead of sugar. Despite this, the base of the drink remained the same: corn syrup, an additive made from grains from an agro-toxic market and responsible for many chronic diseases.
- Herbal-Essences has promised us a “truly organic experience”. But lauryl sulfate, propylene glycol and other compounds in its products are not so organic.
- O.B. tampons without an applicator claim to save up to one kilo of waste per woman per year. Now they just need to tell us how much herbicide, insecticide, fungicide, fertilizer and other chemicals they use to produce the cotton. Besides the damage they cause to women, it is much worse than we think (change to the menstrual cup!)
There are sustainable brands!
To end up with on a better note, it must be said that not all large companies use greenwashing.
WWF has published a document with the 10 companies that in its opinion have implemented real sustainable measures.You can have a look to know which companies we should be supporting!
Would you like to see which ones are there and support them?
See you next time!