When brands greenwash their products, they are putting time and effort into promoting their products as “green” and “ethical” rather than channeling those resources into implementing sustainable practices that reduce their environmental impact.
An example of greenwashing is the deliberate use of leaves, nature, or even the color green in product advertisements. Greenwashing via imagery makes consumers assume that the product being advertised is eco-friendly, and hence get lured into buying their product.
Another common example of greenwashing is the vagueness in the company’s claims about going green. Simple and generic terms like “eco-friendly” is too broad a claim – How and what are the steps they have taken to reduce waste? What goes into their manufacturing and packaging processes? These are the things you should look out for when you search up products that claim to be green and environmentally friendly.
In recent years, consumers around the globe – Gen Z and Millennials in particular – have become increasingly environmentally conscious and want to support brands who advocate sustainability; results from a study show that 60% of internet users are willing to pay more for eco-friendly products.
It seems that marketing a brand as “eco-friendly” or “sustainable” has become a trend as companies, one after another, begin claiming themselves to be ethical and environmentally friendly. But more often than not, they are simply greenwashing, as nearly 1/4 of green claims made by companies are observed to be exaggerated in the market today.
Greenwashing in the Fashion Industry
The fashion industry is one of the world’s largest waste generators – with over 50 micro-seasons and an estimate of one new trend each week, the industry produces large amounts of textile waste.
Fast fashion brands who claim that they are “sustainable” are doing so just to promote mindless green consumerism because it is almost impossible for them to be environmentally friendly and ethical, given the competitive nature of the industry.
You can tell that a brand is greenwashing when it promotes itself as a sustainable brand as it releases a “conscious collection” consisting of a few items that are made sustainably, yet most of their products are still being manufactured unsustainably. An even more obvious sign of greenwashing is when brands don’t provide evidence to support their claim of being green and ethical.
Why Do Companies Greenwash?
Although some companies participate in greenwashing unintentionally due to misinformation on what it means to go green, most companies greenwash purposely through detailed marketing and PR strategies to attract the environmentally conscious consumer. Companies who greenwash want consumers to believe that they are contributing to protecting the environment, even though that may not be the case.
Negative Impacts of Greenwashing
From the looks of it, greenwashing is like click baiting. However, the effects of greenwashing are much more severe than that of click baiting, and here’s why:
· Harming the environment
Spending too much effort into greenwashing products may result in companies neglecting the Earth altogether, hence continuing harming the environment as they do little to adopt sustainable and ethical practices.
· Damage to the company’s reputation
Users of social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook are not afraid to speak their mind online. They are tech-savvy individuals who know where to find accurate and updated information about anything and everything on the Internet, hence there is a high chance that a company who makes false claims about being “green” and “ethical” – whether intentionally or unintentionally – will have its lies uncovered. This may result in the brand losing its reputation and its pool of loyal customers as the trust between the brand and its consumers is broken.
· Environmental efforts are discouraged
When consumers are misled by companies who greenwash their products, they may feel discouraged and believe that the effort they have put into becoming environmentally friendly does not make a difference. This may further discourage them from making any effort to support sustainable brands in the future.
What Brands Should Do to Stop Greenwashing Unintentionally
· Ensure credibility
Consumers want to know what steps a brand is taking to contribute to saving the Earth. By providing credible proof of how the brand is engaging in sustainable practices, consumers can trust the brand and buy their products with a peace of mind, knowing that they are really going green.
· Stay true to brand’s values
Even though it is good to take action to save the Earth, unless it is the brand’s mission and main goal, brands should not focus too much on promoting themselves as eco-friendly. By sending out too many posts about their green practices, consumers may grow suspicious and start to question if the brand is really green or not. It is best that brands stay true to their values and integrate sustainability into their business practices bit by bit instead. This way, the brand can improve on itself in the long run whilst simultaneously satisfying its loyal customers who support the brand for who they promise to be.
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