How to Identify Greenwashing

Categories Greenwashing

While greenwashing has been around for decades, it is becoming more difficult for the average consumer to recognize. This is because many large corporations are directing their efforts to look like they’re engaging in environmentally sustainable practices instead of actually reducing their environmental impact. As a team that is committed to true plastic sustainability and raising greenwashing awareness, Change Plastic for Good knows how difficult it can be to spot signs of greenwashing in modern products and advertising campaigns. That’s why we’ve put together a list to help you understand how to identify greenwashing and avoid companies that engage in it.

4 Ways to Spot Greenwashing

If you are trying to determine if a brand is guilty of greenwashing, it is important to look for the following red flags:

1. Vague Terminology

Companies often greenwash by making broad statements filled with buzzwords and vague statements about sustainability. Terms such as “eco-conscious”, “clean”, or “highly sustainable” don’t mean anything in terms of a company’s environmental efforts, especially when it comes to their manufacturing processes. Other examples of vague terminology include “non-toxic” or “new and improved” regarding their product or packaging. If a product features an abundance of buzzwords with no clear meaning or way to prove their claims, the manufacturer is likely greenwashing.

2. Symbolic Actions

A widely overlooked practice is for brands to draw attention to a minor positive action that does little to change their overall environmental footprint. For example, an oil company may try to highlight a recent donation to an environmental foundation after a recent oil spill or to cover up their increased emissions. Another example is vehicle manufacturers highlighting the lack of emissions for their electric vehicles while failing to mention the environmental impact of lithium mining and battery manufacturing. Clothing manufacturers may also state that their clothing is “now made with 50% more recycled fibres” when increasing this amount from 4% to 6%. While this statement is technically true, it is extremely misleading.

3. Meaningless Labels

Many brands hide behind meaningless labels that sound impressive but don’t have any official weight behind them. Examples include phrases like “made with natural ingredients” instead of showing an organic certification or saying “vegan approved” instead of showing the product is PETA-certified vegan. If a product is using these statements on their packaging, be sure to look for signs of certification or endorsement from a relevant organization.

4. Suggestive Imagery

Sometimes, a picture or visually pleasing image is all it takes to greenwash consumers. For example, a tissue company might adorn its box with green leaves to imply the paper was harvested sustainably without mentioning that fact on the packaging. This type of imagery is also commonly found on water bottles, plastic fruit packaging, and other items that are not produced in a sustainable manner.

To learn more about greenwashing or Thunderforce, get in touch with the team at Change Plastic for Good. We can be reached through our online contact form and will be happy to answer any questions you may have regarding BDP® or the movement to raise greenwashing awareness.