Consumer rightsEconews

Don’t be fooled by environmentalism. We expose greenwashing

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(fot. Moa Király, źródło: unsplash.com)

Nowadays on store shelves we have a huge selection of “eco”, “bio”, “zero waste” products, although not always these labels correspond to reality and create only an illusion of an environmentally friendly brand.

Eco is slowly becoming a consumer standard – people want products that are healthy, natural and made without harming the environment. For manufacturers, this means a constant search for new and often expensive solutions to meet the growing expectations of consumers and not fall behind the ecological competition. Perhaps that is why many of them decide to “green” deception, or greenwashing.

What is greenwashing?

Greenwashing is a kind of marketing trick that makes consumers perceive a product as ecological, although in reality it is not. When ecology started to be fashionable, producers realized that “green” products sell better. Ecological light bulbs, ecological vacuum cleaner bags, ecological toilet paper, etc. began to appear on the shelves. Very often these are just big words. In reality, the product is not at all environmentally friendly, and sometimes, on the contrary, it is more harmful than its counterparts available on the market.

Greenwashing methods

In the fight for the consumer companies resort to various and not always fair tricks. Unfortunately, in the end the customer and, of course, the environment suffer. What methods do producers resort to in order to convince us of their environmental friendliness?

The right phrases and wording

The simplest way is to write on the packaging that the product is environmentally friendly. In some countries there are legal restrictions on the use of such wording, so it happens that the prefixes “eco” and “bio” are included in the brand name. This is a way to get around the law and convince the consumer that the product is natural and environmentally friendly. “For the care of our planet”, “in harmony with nature”, “for the good of the environment” and many others are often empty platitudes without any cover.

Zielone plamy farby
(Photo by FLY:D, source: unsplash.com)

Half-truths and untruths

Sometimes a product will say it’s not tested on animals. But if the product doesn’t have the proper ethical certification, it may mean that the product itself wasn’t tested, but the ingredients it contains were. The manufacturer did not lie, but distorted the perception of the information and created a false image of an organic brand. Similarly, exaggerating a positive attribute of a product to mask harmful chemical ingredients or the fact that not enough eco-friendly packaging was used works.

Using the color green

This method cannot be called illegal, but the green color of packaging and its elements is simply a tool for consumer manipulation. In the collective consciousness it is green that is associated with the environment, nature and ecology. In stores we often find cosmetics in green packaging with drawings of leaves and inscriptions of “pure”, “natural”, “herbal”, “organic”. Then we think that such products are environmentally friendly, but in fact they may contain parabens, SLS and preservatives and may be tested on animals.

Fake eco-certificates

Sometimes on the packaging there are icons very similar to the logos of international and national certifications. For the less informed consumer they are practically indistinguishable from the originals. As a result, products with a friendly green sticker with leaves or a tree, which have nothing to do with organizations issuing official certificates, end up in the shopping cart.

Ecological advertising campaigns

Symbol recyklingu
(Andriy Onufriyenko / Moment / Getty Images)

The company dumps hectoliters of sewage into the river, but on billboards its employees plant trees, collect and sort trash or help wild animals. The whole thing is complemented by beautiful and lofty slogans about acting for the common good and saving the planet that is our home. This is a green marketing smokescreen. The company creates its eco-image, while in reality it does not take any specific action for the environment and even deliberately pollutes it.

Organic and certified

For the consumer, the best way to be sure that a product is environmentally friendly is to check the certification. In order not to get caught in the greenwashing rod, it is a good idea to compare the markings on the packaging with international certification marks.

Using greenwashing does not always mean that you have a bad product in front of you. But to be able to call a product environmentally friendly, the manufacturer must prove its environmental friendliness by voluntarily undergoing the appropriate certification. This means that the product has been audited by an independent organization that has tested it for environmental compliance at all stages of the production cycle.

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