Separating greenwashing from legitimate sustainable practices

As more people around the world are becoming environmentally aware, many businesses announce that they are operating sustainably to gain consumers’ trust. However, many businesses falsely operate sustainably and engage in ‘greenwashing’ to capitalise on the growing consumer demand for environmentally friendly products and sustainable practices. In this blog post, we will explain what greenwashing is and explore the importance of separating greenwashing from legitimate sustainable practices. It will also inform consumers on how to support genuine eco-conscious businesses that contribute to a greener future. 

What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is when businesses spend more resources on marketing themselves as environmentally friendly than on actually minimising their environmental impact on the world. This deceptive marketing tactic misleads consumers into believing that a product or company is sustainable, undermining the efforts of genuine eco-conscious businesses. 

How to spot Greenwashing

Consumers need to have a sharp-eye and look beyond the surface-level claims that are made by companies. Indicators of greenwashing by companies include:


1. Vague terminology

Look out for companies who list ambiguous terms on their website like ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘green’ without any concrete, supporting evidence or certifications to prove their eco-conscious identity. Genuine eco-conscious businesses are transparent and list in specific details what their environmental initiatives are. 


2. Lack of third-party certifications 

Trusted certifications, such as Fair Trade, provide creditable verification of a company’s sustainable practices. Consumers should look for certifications like this to ensure a company’s credibility. 


3. Misleading messaging or imagery

Companies that engage in greenwashing often rely on misleading imagery to cover up their unsustainable practices. They may upload pictures of nature, even though the company’s practices are unsustainable. Consumers need to look beyond the appealing imagery and do research into the business’ policies, environmental initiatives, values, and track record.


4. Unsupported claims

If a company claims to have a sustainable practice, then they must provide proof or concrete evidence of their claim. The information should be transparent and specific so that the claim is supported. Consumers should be wary of companies that make large claims without providing any concrete evidence. 

Supporting genuine and legitimate sustainable practices 

Although some companies pretend to be sustainable even though they engage in activities that cause detriment to the planet, there are many businesses who are genuinely committed to a greener earth and engage in sustainable practices. Here are some ways that consumers can look out for and help support legitimate sustainable businesses: 


1. Research 

Consumers should take the time to research companies' environmental initiatives, policies, values, and track record. Look for extensive information about their waste management, energy consumption, supply chains, and corporate social responsibility policies. Companies that are transparent will easily provide this information through sustainability reports on their websites. Also look for trusted third-party certifications from recognised organisations, as these can help determine businesses that have legitimate sustainable practices. If you see certifications such as Fair Trade on products, means that it has gone through thorough audits and assessments.


2. Support local and small businesses 

These types of businesses are tighter-knit with their communities and are more likely to focus on sustainable practices. Help contribute to a more sustainable local economy by supporting local and small businesses. 


3. Engage in public conversations 

Use social media platforms to discuss sustainable practices and increase support for businesses who are genuinely trying to minimise environmental impact. These discussions create further environmental awareness and put pressure on businesses to engage in legitimate sustainability initiatives. 

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