Sustainability attracts not only customers but also investors. A lot of businesses have now started to practice green marketing, advertising their sustainable responsibility. However, a part of it also abuses the sustainability bandwagon for their own benefits. Hence, the term “greenwashing” now surfaces.
Greenwashing marketing: green company-cosplay
Investopedia explains that the term greenwashing comes from a wordplay of “whitewashing”, used to explain the act of covering up a bad deed with fake information. Similarly, greenwashing means claiming, and often exaggerating, to be sustainably responsible for doing business, for additional benefits. Some companies usually mix up several truths and lie in their attempt to be seen as green companies. This act is still wrong and is part of greenwashing marketing.
Greenwashing marketing in real life
If you notice, a lot of businesses went through a lot of renaming, rebranding and repackaging to cater to the “environmentally friendly” demand. On a lot of products, companies now plaster additional keywords such as “natural”, “healthier”, “chemical-free”, ”recyclable”.
Investopedia also mentions the irony in a lot of conventional energy companies. The companies that in fact contributes as one of the biggest carbon emitters in the world, label themselves as “champions of the environment”. A lot of consumers and investors may overlook the fact that these companies are actually committing greenwashing, while the companies will still get the recognition as “environmentally friendly” companies.
Avoiding greenwashed companies
While not all business commits greenwashing, it is better to educate ourselves about the term and how to differentiate the real green marketing and a fake one. The U.S. Federal Trade Commission has designed a guideline to help people differ the two acts.
Firstly, companies need to write the product’s green claim in simple language and readable font. The claims in packaging and advertising should also be very close to the companies’ real practice.
Second, businesses need to specify which part of the products is environmentally friendly. Is it the packaging, the whole product, or only one of the wooden screw in the corner holding the whole product together?
Third, companies are prohibited to overstate. Whether it is a direct or implicit statement, businesses need to be exact with the environmental attribute or benefit claims.
Lastly, the law does not allow businesses, under any condition, to compare themselves with other competing businesses. No matter how truthful the company in stating their claims, if they try to compare how their acts are better for the environment than competing companies, it is a straight out.