January 16, 2022|
3 mins read
In 2022, more of us than ever before want to do what we can to support and heal our struggling planet. This can look different for everyone. However, whether you’re taking action to prompt systemic change, or are simply swapping one not-so-eco product for an eco one, there’s no denying that there’s more awareness about all things sustainability.
But with this heightened awareness also comes corporations looking to exploit it for financial gain.
Typical, isn’t it?
Think of ‘Greenwashing’ like a hunting snare, set up by companies that care more about their profit margins and marketing campaigns than they do the actual planet. It’s defined by Investopedia as “the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound.”
But when you are surrounded by marketing that is vying for your attention, who do you heed? And what kinds of lures should you sniff out and avoid?
It can be confusing (and that is what these companies rely on!), so we’ve put together a list of the most common tells to spot when a company is coaxing you into a greenwashed trap, and the questions you should ask yourself before buying in.
Is their supply chain transparent?
Monitoring supply chains is a huge and complex job for any company, but one they must invest in if they want to live up to their eco promises. And a company that knows there is a kink in their chain will do all they can to hide it.
Now is the time for transparency! A survey showed 94% of people believe companies should address social and environmental issues. With 90% saying they would boycott any company found to be engaging in irresponsible business practices.
Whilst the logical thing may seem to not engage in unethical behaviour in the first place, too many businesses instead choose to simply cover this behaviour up.
If you’re wondering whether a brand is as green as it seems, simply assess how up-front they are about their supply chain. Whilst they can’t outright lie about what they’re doing, they can omit details. So, if their website or socials are filled with detailed information about where their ingredients are sourced, how their products are produced or what their transportation system looks like, they’re less likely to be guilty of greenwashing.
Is their branding making them look better than they are?
When shopping for eco-friendly products, ignore the packaging and study the labels.
Companies will cover their packaging with images of nature: crystal clear water droplets on fruit, a tree in the breeze … anything to flick the switch in your mind that says, ‘This product is from the earth, and for the earth,’ but it is all a well-dressed lie. To deceive you further, they often avoid colours that are vibrant, flashy, and unusual – instead opting for pastels and earth tones, with green and brown dominating.
Then come the buzzwords … organic, natural, biodegradable … but does the product live up to these claims? When they say the packaging is biodegradable, are they referring only to the label? When it comes to greenwashed words and sentences, read between the lines!
These are lies for your eyes, but no lie can hide on a label – they are required by law not to. Look out for asterisks beside ingredients and claims, and the corresponding small print. A company may boast recycled packaging, but on the label will amend that statement, excluding the lid or pump top. Be vigilant, and interrogate everything!
Does this price make sense?
Eco products are often pinned as ‘overpriced’ and ‘expensive’, and brands will try to divert your attention with their more affordable prices. But this is greenwashing at its finest.
As a society, we have developed a certain numbness to the environmental (and human!) labour behind the products we buy. Fast fashion is a steaming example, with certain companies even offering up to 100% off this Black Friday.
If the piece is a total “bargain”, how much might the person who made it have received? And why were the supplies and materials so cheap to begin with?
The same goes for all products that hold an eco-friendly flag. They will prey on our desire for convenience and ease, but those shortcuts slice right through the planet, causing catastrophic harm.
We do not mean to say that all eco products must be expensive in order to be trusted, only that an item’s price should have a unity with its production. And if that they are super cheap, you must wonder how that low price point is possible.
Do they have a parent company that is harming the planet?
If the brand in question is the puppet, then its parent company is the puppet master – and their actions cast a shadow on all the companies they parent.
It can be a pitfall of shopping with big brands over local sellers, because so many of these big-name brands are owned by much bigger, and much more environmentally harmful corporations.
When not shopping locally, remember to do your research into a company’s history and any parent companies they may have looming – A simple Google should be enough to give you the answers you need!
Do they have certification?
Claims are only empty when they are uncertified. These logos are easy to spot and, when a product has their seal of approval, will be prominently advertised.
Look out for the leaping bunny on cosmetics and household products claiming not to be tested on animals, or the fairtrade ‘wave’ on items that boast high standards in production and labour.
All vegan products should hold the vegan certified heart, and organically farmed produce should be certified by the Soil Association (which, fun fact, is the UK’s largest organic certification body).
These examples barely scratch the surface of eco certification. If you’re interested to know which other UK charities and programmes are dedicating themselves to our planet’s wellbeing, browse the full list.
So, there you have it. Do you feel more equipped to spot the wheat from the chaff?
It can be tough. The market is so vast – and with endless choice and everything competing for our attention (and money), it can be hard to know which way to turn.
Here at Wearth we’ve done the homework and saved you the time. You can trust our dedication to sourcing quality products with no ulterior motives. And our aim?
To make eco-living convenient and accessible to everyone!
For more information on greenwashing, and the ways you can avoid it, check out our previous blog post.
And if you have any other tips or examples, we’d love to hear them! Join the Wearth London community and conversation on Instagram at @wearthlondon.