Greenwashing is the crafty act of making a product look like a saint when it’s really a sinner. It’s the equivalent of putting an “organic” label on a genetically modified apple, or claiming a product is “carbon neutral” when it’s really not. It’s a deceptive practice that’s becoming more common and it’s not just bad for the environment, it’s bad for your wallet too.
Nowadays, companies abuse such unethical marketing practices in order to make the product appear better ultimately, driving more sales.
What is Greenwashing?
Definition. Greenwashing is the act of making a product or service appear more environmentally friendly than it actually is. Companies do this by making false claims about a product’s eco-friendliness, or by using misleading language or imagery to give the impression that their product is more sustainable than it truly is.
For example, a company may claim that their product is “made from natural materials,” when in reality, only a small percentage of the product is made from natural materials. Or, a company may claim that their product is “organic,” when it only contains a small amount of organic ingredients. Greenwashing can also involve exaggerating the environmental benefits of a product, or downplaying its negative impacts.
Why is Greenwashing Bad?
The Extent of the Issue
Greenwashing is bad for a number of reasons. Firstly, it’s bad for consumers. According to a study by TerraChoice (acquired by UL), 98% of products that make environmental claims are guilty of greenwashing (yep, let that sink in). This means that it’s almost impossible for consumers to know if the product they’re buying is genuinely eco-friendly or not.
Ultimately, Bad for the Environment
Secondly, it’s bad for the environment. When companies make false claims about their products’ eco-friendliness, they’re not motivated to make real changes to their production methods. This means that they continue to produce products that are harmful to the environment, while misleading consumers into thinking they’re making a more sustainable choice.
Damaging for Those Really Trying
And lastly, it’s bad for companies that are genuinely committed to sustainability. When companies engage in greenwashing, they’re effectively stealing business from those that are truly working to reduce their environmental impact.
Greenwashing is a dirty little secret that’s becoming more common, especially nowadays, when companies are trying to reap its rewards.
It’s bad for the environment, bad for consumers, and bad for companies that are genuinely committed to sustainability. So next time you see a product claiming to be “organic” or “carbon neutral”, make sure to do your due diligence to see if the product really is organic and carbon neutral.
NOTE: There are different certifications based on the products in question. There’s a lot of info out there though, that can be used to find out whether a certification has any value or not.
IMPORTANT: There are a lot of phony third-party certifications out there too. This is just another practice that companies seem to adopt to further increase the legitimacy of their claims.