In a world where we are trying to be more eco-friendly, it is so frustrating that we have to watch out for greenwashing. It can be tough to make a sustainable switch when brands are being so dishonest about what is really happening behind the scenes. In this post, I am going to share 7 greenwashing signs that I look for in brands. A lot of fast fashion brands have tried to jump on the sustainable bandwagon, except they aren’t. I think they view it as a trend. Putting an eco slogan on a t-shirt does not make it eco-friendly!
What is greenwashing?
Greenwashing is basically a company being sneaky and a bit elusive about what they are really doing. Why do brands do this? To get more sales and make more money.
The act or practice of making a product, policy, activity, etc. appear to be more environmentally friendly or less environmentally damaging than it really isMerriam-Webster
7 greenwashing signs from a brand
When I think of this, I am thinking of a very specific fast fashion brand. Did you know that you can say a product is recycled even if it isn’t 100% made from recycled materials? This is so wrong and needs to change. A lot of clothing brands will create a ‘sustainable’ collection and will say it has been made from sustainable materials but not specify which ones or what percentage.
Solution: The best way to check if a brand is greenwashing, is by looking on their website. Most websites have a sustainability section, so have a read of that. You can tell if they are greenwashing when they use very fluffy language, that has no depth or actions to it. It is bad when their biggest accomplishment is using a paper carrier bag, rather than using sustainable clothing materials.
Related post: 9 ways to reduce your fast fashion consumption
A lot of brands and companies use buzzwords such as green, eco-friendly, sustainable etc. which can be very misleading. Check that a brand has ethical and environmental credentials. I don’t trust a brand that doesn’t have these symbols which shows they have been awarded the certification. Sustainability and ethics go hand in hand for me, but brands can be doing one without the other. Something else to look for is charity donations, specifically brands that donate to wildlife charities.
Some credentials to look for on their website:
- Cruelty-Free International Leaping Bunny symbol
- Living Wage Employer
- Carbon neutral
- Climate Partner Certified
- Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)
Related post: Make sustainable shopping simpler with Ethy
3. Be cautious with products that have eco-friendly slogans
There are so many clothing brands that have products with slogans like ‘save the bees’ ‘there’s no planet B’ etc. I find it so hypocritical for an unsustainable brand to use phrases like these. It is not enough for a brand to say it, they need to do something about it. I’m sure you can think of a few clothing brands that do this! As I said earlier, brands that do this just make me think that they think of sustainability as a trend which is not a good sign.
I think if the brand is eco-friendly and ethical then it is obviously fine to use slogans like these. But otherwise, it is a red flag for me.
4. The number of products they are selling
Another of the big greenwashing signs of a brand or company is the number of products they are selling. Brands that release new products/clothing regularly are a sign that they are not eco-friendly. Overconsumption is definitely one of the biggest issues in more developed countries. Brands are all about following the trends or predicting the next big trend. People don’t want to be the last to get in on the trend and so just purchase the next thing they see, quite literally tossing their current clothing to the side.
5. The colour green
Some brands and businesses love to use the colour green to try to greenwash consumers into thinking they are good for the environment. A prime example of this is when Coca-Cola briefly created a new line called Coca-Cola Life. The new product was supposedly healthy, though it still contained an unhealthy amount of sugar. The green colour of their logo was strategic to come across as natural and healthy. They were taken to court and have been named the world’s biggest plastic polluter.
Continue reading: 7 greenwashing signs to look for in brands
6. Highlighting one good thing they have done
Another of the greenwashing signs is when a company says they are eco-friendly because they have done one good eco action. A few examples below:
- McDonald’s switched from plastic to paper straws. Paper straws have to be thrown in the general waste so they are non-recyclable. Also, this is not a long-term solution as trees are probably cut down to create them. It is better than plastic, and pretty much everywhere has made the switch. Even so, McDonald’s could be doing so much more such as using organic meat.
- BP installed solar panels and led advertising campaigns on their ‘low-carbon energy’ products. BP is one of the biggest fossil fuel companies!
- Starbucks created a strawless lid but it had more plastic in it than the previous lid and straw in total. They stated that this was a step in reducing their environmental footprint, and went on to say how harmful plastic is.
Solution: For food brands, bring a reusable travel mug with you! Stojo is my favourite to keep in my bag because it is collapsible so takes up hardly any room.
7. Look for what they don’t mention
This is a bit harder to think about, but it is one of the greenwashing signs I try to think about. Think about whether they mention their ethical standards, for example, do they know each stage of the lifecycle of their products? Do they regularly check with their suppliers to ensure the standard of the product, and the workers are ethical? Are the products 100% made with sustainable materials? 50% recycled plastic also means 50% non-recycled plastic. Have they mentioned how they are reducing their carbon footprint? Planting trees is not enough. Particularly look at companies who say that have reduced x amount of plastic since x year, but what about how much they are still producing?
I hope this post has cleared up what greenwashing signs to look for when considering purchasing from a brand! I would really recommend checking out Good On You as they do a deep dive into fashion brands and say how ethical & sustainable brands are.
What greenwashing signs do you look for?