As sustainability gains more popularity among consumers, many companies are trying to capitalize on this trend by promoting their products or services as eco-friendly or sustainable, even if they take little to no actual action towards sustainable goals. This is called Greenwashing. And it’s a problem.
In this video and blog below, we will explore what greenwashing is, why it is harmful to sustainable businesses, and what we can do to combat it.
What is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing is when companies use marketing to create a false impression that their products or services are environmentally friendly or sustainable.
Companies “greenwash” by making exaggerated or misleading claims, using vague or ambiguous terms, or providing incomplete information about their actions. For example, a company might use plant imagery or use language like “all natural” or other similarly vague terms to suggest that their product is eco-friendly, even if it only has minor (if any) environmental benefit or is still harmful, wasteful or unethical in other areas.
How Greenwashing Hurts Sustainable Businesses
Greenwashing Makes the Sustainable Movement More Confusing
The most insidious way that greenwashing harms sustainability movement is that it undermines the efforts of genuinely sustainable businesses. Greenwashing dilutes the meaning of sustainability and reduces it to marketing jargon. When customers are exposed to false or exaggerated claims, it creates confusion and skepticism, making it harder for genuine sustainable businesses to stand out.
Loss of Consumer Trust
Greenwashing can lead to a lack of trust between businesses and customers over time because customers feel misled and manipulated. This can lead to apathy, inaction, and frustration at the entire cause. Sustainable businesses then have to work harder to win back that trust, grow their audience, and gain a foothold in their market. This is difficult for independent small to medium size businesses to overcome.
Greenwashing Increases Risk for Business Owners
Greenwashing is so pervasive it has embedded itself into every aspect of the product development process. When looking for suppliers, manufacturers or partners for your business, owners have to sift through the same deceptive language and unclear claims as consumers. Finding genuine partners who share similar values and dedication is very important here but it’s a huge challenge. Trusting the wrong person could mean you’re unintentionally making false claims or unknowingly contributing to environmental harm, despite their claims to the contrary.
What Can We Do to Combat Greenwashing?
Increase Education on Sustainability
We should all work to educate ourselves about sustainability, realistic sustainable goals, and what it truly means to be ethical and environmentally friendly in business. This education will make it easier to identify false or exaggerated claims and to support businesses that are genuinely sustainable.
As a sustainable business owner, education should be a focus for you in your content. Help your audience on their journey by creating inspiring and easy to follow educational content related to issues around sustainability. Expanding knowledge on social and environmental issues as well as their solutions is key to ensuring the success of our collective ESG goals and the independent businesses dedicated to them.
Look Into Third Party Certifications
When building a sustainable brand then it’s important you look into third-party certifications or labels such as Organic, or Fair Trade for example. These large and easily recognizable certifications help cut down on confusion and help consumers make more sustainable purchasing decisions. to support. There are certifications for nearly every step of the product creation process and we encourage you to invest in as many as possible that are relevant to your business, product or services.
Not only are these certifications going to help consumers see increased value of your products, they are often great communities of likeminded business owners and can be a potential source of collaborators for your own growth!
Support Brands That Take Action
We’re all consumers, so when making a purchase it’s important to consider where your money goes. Choose to support businesses that are dedicated to building a sustainable future wherever possible! Help keep funds in the hands of businesses that are making a difference.
Hold Greenwashers Accountable
Lastly, we need to hold companies accountable. Reporting instances of greenwashing to relevant authorities like the FTC in the US, or the ASA in the UK is a good option. These regulatory agencies are able to force businesses to stop making these claims without proof of action, but they aren’t able to monitor everything so it is helpful to report things when you see them! Boycotting companies that engage in greenwashing, environmentally harmful or unethical business practices is also an extremely effective method of action. We vote with our dollars, and consumers have a lot of collective power to show big business that we’re not going to stand for their unsustainable ways any longer!
This is what we’re up against in the sustainability movement. These deceitful greenwashing tactics are what fuels our fire to help truly sustainable businesses grow. We know how hard it is to compete against these big business and that’s why we do what we do.
If you’re ready to bring your sustainability efforts to the forefront of your marketing, we’re ready to help! Let’s develop your holistic marketing strategy so you can elevate your impact ❤️ Schedule a call here!