You have probably seen a lot of green products in stores. It might have crossed your mind that you never know how true this claims is. There is new marketing gimmick nowadays – the greenwashing strategy. Companies try to ‘greenwash’ customers into buying their products which are not actually green or eco friendly. These companies are very smart, but you can be smarter. Here are some tips for you to recognize some popular greenwashing strategies, which you can see through the next time you ponder over a ‘green product’:
8 popular greenwashing strategies
It doesn’t define clearly the ‘greenness’
A product that claims to be eco friendly (which really sounds good) but does not clearly define exactly how it is ‘green’. For example, a product could be described as non-toxic and that it does not have any hazardous chemicals. But this claim is true only in one context, and would be completely false green claims in another. This is because the product is not safe to injest. Another example is ‘radiant barrier’ paint which is advertised as having a high R-value, but the manufacturer forgets to mention that it is effective only when applied on NASA spacecraft, which see huge changes of temperature. This is one of the popular greenwashing strategies you have to be careful of.
Green through association
These days, to identify greenwashing tactics, you have to be suspicious and keep your eyes open. Some companies are so clever, that they do not claim to be green in words, and their product is not eco friendly either. But they will try to convince you that the products are green, by including photos of beautiful natural settings. They may name their products in such a way that you will unconsciously associate the company/products as being sustainable. Be aware of these popular greenwashing strategies and save yourself a ton of money.
A company which is faking to be sustainable will make environmental claims but will not provide the necessary proof to substantiate the claims. For example, a company may claim to use recycled material in their manufacturing process, but will not give the required details of how much and what has been used. They can get their product certified if it is really green, but a company making false green claims will not have any certification. Not revealing specifics is one of the most popular greenwashing strategies being used today.
One claim leads to another unverified claim
A company advertises a valid claim about their product which is actually true, but also claims another green attribute, which could be true, but the company has not conducted a separate test for that. For example, a company sells mold resistant paint, which is true, but then they also claim that the paint would have a great effect on the health of the residents (which they have not checked for specifically).
Not publishing the entire life cycle
This is definitely one of the most popular greenwashing strategies you’ll come across. A company might advertise and sell a product which contains recycled material, which improves the product’s eco profile. The company however, either out of ignorance or as a marketing strategy, fails to declare the manufacturing process, which has a lot of carbon emissions and uses conventional energy, or uses binding agents harmful for the environment and human health.
Another example is that of paper, and this is one example everyone can relate to. Using paper is not always eco friendly, even though it might come from sustainably harvested forests. You have to also consider other environmental issues, such as use of chlorine or bleaching and gas emissions during the production of paper. If any green paper/ paper product fails to mention the details of the production process, you can be sure that it is a clear case of greenwashing.
The big switch
Some companies faking to be sustainable will develop just one sustainable product in their entire product range. They will bombard the media with their ‘green’ innovation, and win accolades for their eco friendliness. But their other products remain the same without any changes whatsoever. Besides the company produces so little of the ‘green product’ and price it very high too, that people are often forced to go for their non-green products.
So you have to be careful while purchasing an eco friendly product from a company which is otherwise polluting the environment as much as other companies. You should do some research to identify greenwashing tactics and then make the right purchase.
Rallying to create lower standards
It is very hard sometimes to spot the actual green products due to the proliferation of popular greenwashing strategies. Especially, if it’s not just one company, but an entire industry which conspires to lower the green standards, so that they can meet them. In the US, the logging industry came under fire for the environmental damage caused by logging, but instead of improving processes to meet the rigorous standards, the industry banded together to create a standard which was much less stringent.
In this case, unscrupulous companies do not hesitate to make false claims or vague claims which are bound to be misunderstood by you. For example, the term ‘All Natural’. It is a very ubiquitous term and is used by many companies. Formaldehyde, mercury, arsenic and uranium are naturally occurring substances and you know how poisonous these are. So terms such as ‘All Natural’ can be applied to any product, without the product being natural at all.
Almost all companies claim to be CFC free – and it is a true claim, as CFC is banned by the government anyway. So it is a claim which is not really helpful when you’re looking for eco friendly HVAC systems.
Greenwashing is an unhealthy trend which most companies have caught on to. As millions of consumers like you want to buy products which do not harm the environment, companies do not have genuine green products to fulfill the demand. Unscrupulous companies do not hesitate to make green claims to sell their products but alert consumers can thwart them and slowly but gradually, actually force companies to start manufacturing green products.