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What is greenwashing?

Have you ever noticed a company promote that their products are recyclable or that they are environmentally friendly but don’t provide any further information?

Greenwashing is when companies provide a false or misleading claims on their environmental practices to appear as though they have a more positive environmental impact than they actually do.

Have you been greenwashed?

Companies may claim their products or services are more environmentally friendly than they actually are. Usually, they claim positive environmental impacts with lack of proof and vague information. The aim of greenwashing is to create an illusion to their consumers that the company is more environmentally friendly than they are.

They may use language like, without additional information:

  • “Eco-friendly”

  • “Sustainable”

  • “Recyclable”

  • “Green”

  • “Natural”

  • “Saves water”

and so on…

How to spot greenwashing

More consumers are now trying to be more green and environmentally conscious, so researching a company’s environmental impacts is important. Here are a few ways to spot if a company is greenwashing:

  • Vague language & wording: The company uses vague language but doesn’t provide additional information.

  • Use of green pictures: Natural and green pictures and designs to have a more eco-friendly look.

  • Recognised certifications: Check to see if they have certifications and are verified for their environmental accusations.

  • Misleading visuals: A product might have recycling logos without explaining how to recycle.

  • Do your research: Search up the product and the company to look further into their sustainability and environmental impacts.

Examples of greenwashing

Greenwashing in fashion

When a fashion brand claims their clothing is made from 50% recycled material or are not made with any chemicals but have no evidence of this or certifications. Sometimes fashion brands may even have a launch a “green” collection.

Greenwashing in hospitality

Food and drink service companies claim they are “plastic free” or reducing plastic waste by using paper alternative such as paper straws but then they use plastic in other parts of the business. Products like paper straws can only be recycled if they are unused or can be home composted - otherwise the used paper straw has to go into general waste.

Greenwashing in other industries

The use of vague language including “low carbon”, “climate change” and “carbon-neutral” are often used in reports with very little additional information about how the company are these things.

Why is greenwashing bad?

Greenwashing is unethical as consumers who are truly seeking eco-friendly companies and products are misled. Companies can usually make financial benefits from greenwashing as greener products can be more expensive.


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