Greenwashing in recent years has become a prominent issue in public discourse and a major area many brands now must tackle.
Greenwashing is a marketing strategy whereby a company makes false or misleading claims, promoting itself as more environmentally conscious than they actually are. The key indicator is that there is a discrepancy between what they say and what they actually do.
Examples of this could include:
- Claiming a product is 'organic' or 'recycled' when only a fraction of the product is actually organic or recycled
- Use of vague terminology ('a sustainable product' 'environmentally-friendly fabrics' etc)
- They lack specific information on the materials they use, where they manufacture, what policies they have on ensuring fair wages, safe working conditions, how they are reducing their environmental impact
- They donate a small number of profits to a charity partner to combat environmental/ social problems yet their products contribute to the issue.
- Promotion of a 'green' or 'sustainable' collection or line when the rest of their products do not follow the same standards
- Environmental messaging from brands whose business models are based on large-scale production and high consumption
How to avoid greenwashing
Rule 1: Clearly explain the sustainable qualities of your collection/ product
- Make your claims clear and easy to understand.
- Be specific. Do not use jargon, misleading language, or buzz words like 'sustainable', 'green', 'eco', or 'environmentally friendly'.
- Don't give the impression that a product, its components or packaging are more sustainable than it really is.
- Use specific units of measurement.
- For example - mention 70% organic cotton in your care label instead of leaving customers thinking it’s entirely organic.
Rule 2: Back up your sustainability claims with facts & keep them up to date
- Prove that your sustainability claims are factual with evidence that can be verified.
- Check regularly if your statements still hold up.
- Use the international standards of trusted organizations and certification standards (e.g. ISO, GOT, GSR)
Rule 3: Be honest and specific about your brand’s sustainability efforts
- Distinguish between general info about the sustainability of your brand and specific info about the benefits of an individual product.
- Give concrete information about your initiatives and plans regarding sustainability instead of vague or unclear statements about your company's commitment and core values.
- Any statement about sustainability ambitions must be in proportion with your actual efforts.
- Only use claims about future goals if these are clear, concrete, and verifiable (e.g. in your strategy).
Rule 4: Make sure visual claims and labels are helpful rather than confusing or misleading
- Only use symbols, pictograms, or labels that support your claim, and that do not give a false impression about your product’s features (e.g. trees or the colour green).