Even just a couple of decades ago, you probably didn’t see nearly as many advertisements that focused on the eco-friendliness or the sustainability of products. In this day and age, it’s extremely common for companies to engage with this type of language in order to advertise their products. Some companies are making a strong effort to be environmentally friendly, it’s true. Yet all of them know that looking environmentally friendly will allow them to appeal more strongly to a broader group of consumers.
With that being said, not all of them are being completely honest. Believe it or not, there is a term for making a company or product seem more eco-friendly than it actually is. Let’s look into this practice, and how common it is.
What is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing is essentially a marketing tactic. When engaging in greenwashing, a company or its PR team will spin a product, policy, or service as environmentally friendly, when in reality it may be much less so, or not very environmentally friendly at all. While greenwashing may not be outright lying (as companies can get in legal trouble for this) it is deceptive. Usually, marketing attempts to get around a product’s real relationship with the environment, without outright lying.
How common is greenwashing?
According to a study by the NIH conducted in 2009, more than 98% of consumer products that were claimed to be green made false green claims. You probably have engaged with products or services that have been greenwashed on some level, whether or not you actively bought the product or service because it was greenwashed.
How Effective Is Greenwashing?
Unfortunately, greenwashing can be hugely popular because people simply want to be more responsible in their purchasing practices. Consumers really do care about issues like sustainability and want to contribute to it through what they buy. When you need to buy a product anyway, it can be a huge relief to know that the brand you’re buying states that they care about or even contribute to sustainability.
However, if you really want to make environmentally friendly choices and be more environmentally friendly, you need to do more research. While it would be great if we could trust companies not to greenwash, we simply aren’t at that point. Don’t worry, you can still buy environmentally friendly products. It’s possible! You’ll just have to do your research.