With Sustainability being arguably the hottest topic in marketing in recent years, we all know it’s important to consumers that companies, especially larger ones, are seen to be doing their bit for the planet. However, we can see that with a lot of the billion pound companies it seems they are shouting more about doing their part than actually doing their part (fast fashion brands spring to mind?). With consumers being more educated than ever, it isn’t taking long for customers to become privy to this and it isn’t uncommon for them to call brands out. The consequences to piggybacking off the movement towards environmental consciousness can be far greater than just bad PR, H&M are currently being sued for their misleading sustainability marketing, read more here.
So, what exactly is meant by greenwashing?
Essentially, greenwashing is when brands spend more of their time, money and efforts on marketing themselves as being sustainable, than on putting practices into place to actually make them sustainable (talking the talk but not walking the walk!).
Brands know that being seen to be ‘ethical’ and ‘sustainable’, drives purchases, therefore profit. Sustainability is increasingly important for consumers, especially to the younger demographic, McKinsey found Gen Z are more likely to purchase from brands who are seen to be doing their part for the planet.
Why is it so problematic?
Greenwashing is especially problematic as it means exploitation is leading to extra pollution. If brands are knowingly taking part in greenwashing, they are manipulating their customers into feeling like they are doing good for the planet by purchasing their products, through deceitful marketing. This is both questionable morally and adds to the ever-growing problem of overconsumption.
What can you do as a business to avoid it?
Brands aren’t always greenwashing consciously. They may be marketing themselves as ‘green’ because they genuinely believe they are! A lot of businesses, especially smaller ones, just don’t have the knowledge or expertise to really know if they’re contributing to the pollution problem.
Here are our tips to get in the know and avoid greenwashing –
- You don’t need to have it all figured it out – start your journey small and be transparent about it
- Back up any claims you make with proof
- Be specific, being vague can confuse customers
- Avoid emphasisng one aspect of your business that is green, when most aspects aren’t
- Try to steer clear of buzzwords or jargon (‘green’, ‘eco-friendly’)
- Don’t exaggerate the sustainability of your products/ services
- Make sure you’re spending more time allocated to doing good, than shouting about doing good
- Get informed – read how other Brighton businesses are doing it here
- Network with other like-minded sustainable businesses in your area, so you can learn from others in a similar position
- Sign up to respectable, legit projects like Ecologi or B Corp
What can you do as a consumer to avoid it?
Although it is in the hands of the brands to market their products responsibly and truthfully, as consumers we also have a responsibility to try and make a difference where we can. Opting for the seemingly ‘greener’ option is all well and good, but how can we as consumers go one step further to really be confident we aren’t being greenwashed…
- Watch out for fluffy, vague language
- Steer clear of any claims without statistics to back them up
- Look for verification from a third party – websites like Project Cece can help
- Research the company for any bad environmental PR
- Consider using refill stations, ditch plastic and manage your waste. The Brighton & Hove Food Partnership has great info on things you can do to live a greener life.
We hope you found this blog interesting and that it may have sparked something inside you to take more accountability as a business owner or a consumer, about the environmental impact you are leaving behind.
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