Adeela Hameed

Have You Been Greenwashed?

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In support of the environment, people go out of their way to buy organic produce or products claimed to be manufactured as per organic standards. However, some companies mislead and convey false information about their products under the ‘organic’ label.

Greenwashing refers to claims by an organization that their products, activities or policies are ethical, sustainable, or environmental friendly when, actually, they are not. Theyassert their products are made from recycled material or have energy-saving benefits. Although some part of their claim might be true, however businesses engaged in green-washing usually exaggerate in an attempt to misguide customers. Greenwashing is a play on the term ‘whitewashing’ which means to present misleading information to gloss over bad behaviour.

Recently, quite a few of the world’s biggest carbon emitters, mostly conventional energy companies, have made attempts to rebrand as champions of the environment. In reality, their products are greenwashed through the process of rebranding, repackaging, or renaming. Such products might convey they are natural, more wholesome, even free from artificial substances, than their competitors but they are not.

The companies advertise either through press releases or via commercials showing off their pollution reduction efforts or flaunting use of clean energy. They may not be fully committed to following the green initiatives so their claims are unsubstantiated.

Examples of Greenwashed Products

  1. A rug labelled with ‘50% more recycled content than before’. Here, the manufacturer must have increased recycled material from 2% to just 3% but it indicates to a consumer that a significant portion of the rug has recycled fibre.
  2. A plastic package contains a new shower curtain and is labelled ‘recyclable’. The manufacturer does not specify what actually is recyclable in the whole package. This label is thus, deceptive.
  3. A trash bag is labelled ‘recyclable’. These garbage bags are not separated from other trash at a landfill site or during incineration, so they are highly unlikely to be used again. This label is insincere yet again as it affirms an environmental benefit where no meaningful benefit exists.

Know the Difference

To know you are not buying green-washed products, make sure to look out for these important parameters:

  1. Bypass the packaging and read the label. Be aware of faux-branding. Packaging and advertising should also explain green claims in simple readable language.
  2. Look for proof of green practices. USDA, APEDA or Green Seal certification will help identify which products are truly organic.
  3. Beware of colour branding. Some companies use earth huesto imply an all-natural vibe.
  4. Don’t put your trust in mere slogans. Check ingredients to know more.
  5. Environmental marketing claim should specify whether it refers to the packaging, just a portion of the product or the whole item.
  6. Understand what going green mean. Read up on labels and certifications, farming practices and efficient manufacturing.
  7. Any product’s marketing claim should never overstate, by implication or directly, an environmental benefit.
  8. If a company claims its products’ benefit over the competition, the stated notion should be properly substantiated.

Buying organic and natural products is a healthy choice but it is better to fully comprehend what you are purchasing and where you are purchasing it from. Blindly following an advertisement or a high-profile brand does not make you responsible. Being aware is what makes you so.

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