We talk a lot about green washing here at GS HQ.
But what does green washing actually mean?
To put it simply, green washing is when companies attempt to make themselves seem environmentally friendly, rather than taking the initiative to be environmentally friendly.
As the word suggests, they wash themselves green.
Since we as consumers are looking to buy eco-friendly products and support green business, most businesses will jump at the opportunity —even if they’re not ready (or willing) to put in the work.
Companies which engage in green washing don’t often outright lie (because they can get in a lot of trouble) but rather invest heavily in their marketing campaigns that significantly stretch the truth, omit key information or hide behind a single ethical initiative or product.
A few examples might include:
- Setting up clothing recycling programs and giving customers money back—only to be able to use the money to buy more clothes.
- Planting a tree per car sold—when in fact such a car would require 734 trees to be carbon neutral.
- Using an All-natural tag— to describe chemicals that are naturally forming, yet still environmentally damaging.
So what? Why is green washing a problem?
While we would like all companies to be green, what is happening is that some companies are ‘talking the talk’ but not ‘walking the walk’. They project their pro-eco stance and then quietly carry on with their not-so-eco business.
But why should we worry? Well, continuing to buy from green washing companies leads to a vicious cycle harming customers, the environment, and green businesses. Not to mention the negative impact on consumer trust when faux claims or partial truths come to light.
When we buy from such companies, not only do we believe we’re doing good, but we fuel their non-green production with our dollars. This continues to damage our planet and prevents green companies from flourishing.
How? Every time an instance of green washing is revealed consumer trust in green products erodes. You’ve likely heard a friend say “I don’t know what to buy anymore!” and then pick up a clearly un-green product. That moment is the fall-out of false claims – consumers giving up on the green economy.
So what should we do?
As customers, buy from companies who have sustainability as part of their strategy and show you impact data based on real numbers like those found in a Life Cycle Impact Analysis. Look for hard numbers, 3rd party certifications and independent assessments (like we do here at Green Story!).
And as companies, we must practice what we preach and clearly show our customers our real-world impact data. Ideally with engaging, straightforward visuals available on our homepages and at the point of sale rather than buried CSR reports.