The 7 Sins of Greenwashing

Categories Greenwashing

Greenwashing has become increasingly prominent in today’s advertising techniques and product packaging despite heightened consumer awareness and modern sustainability campaigns. This prominence is especially evident in grocery stores, as recent studies and surveys estimate that roughly 80% of products in these settings utilize some form of greenwashing in their advertising or packaging. To further raise awareness and give consumers the knowledge they need, individuals and companies alike have banded together to compile information on the most common forms of greenwashing, known as the 7 sins of greenwashing. By understanding these sins, consumers can identify greenwashing more easily and identify companies that offer truly sustainable products.

Learn why greenwashing is a problem.

What are the 7 Sins of Greenwashing?

The 7 sins of greenwashing include:

1. Hidden Trade-Offs

Some products use claims like “made with recycled contents” or “compostable” to cover up other environmentally damaging factors the company commits when creating the product. While these products can likely be recycled in most areas, the environmental costs of unethical working conditions, high emissions, solid waste production, overexploitation of resources, and high resource consumption are often swept under the rug and far outweigh the benefits provided by recyclable or compostable packaging.

2. No Proof or Facts

You may see some companies claiming to be environmentally friendly without backing up this claim with facts or evidence. A common example of this can be seen with products that are claimed to have been made with a certain amount of recycled materials or with a specific reduction in emissions during manufacturing. If either of these claims are made on packaging without any indication of certification from a trusted corporation, these claims are empty and false.

3. Vague Statements

Countless labels throughout stores contain the words “sustainable”, “all-natural”, or “eco-friendly”. While these all seem to be great terms at first glance, it is crucial for consumers to take a moment and think about what they actually mean. These labels are misleading because the right combination of environment-related words can easily persuade the public into thinking they are supporting a company that really cares about the environment even if they do not.

4. Irrelevance

Companies will sometimes promote an environmental claim or fact that is technically true, but irrelevant to the product they are selling. The biggest example of this is the claim “CFC-Free”. CFCs (Chlorofluorocarbons) are a type of man-made greenhouse gas that has been banned by law since the 1970s. The claim “CFC-Free” deceives people who are unaware of current environmental laws or production standards to believe that the company is environmentally conscious when in fact they are only complying with the law.

5. Lesser of Two Evils

Companies will commonly make environmental claims even when the product they are offering has minimal environmental benefits to begin with. The automotive industry is a great example of this, as many car companies claim that their vehicles utilize more fuel-efficient technology than their competitors. While these claims can be true, they should never overshadow the fact that every gas-powered car produces significant emissions and pollution every year. It is crucial to remember that being the lesser of two evils does not suddenly make a company or individual a force for good.

6. Lying

Lying is a surprisingly common advertising tactic used around the world, especially when it comes to environmental claims and sustainability. The most common example of this can be seen with companies claiming to have certain certifications even if they do not. Some companies may also outright state that their products are “eco-friendly” even if they do not offer any benefits over similar products on the market. Identifying these lies is crucial for spotting greenwashing and avoiding companies that use them.

7. Worshiping False Labels

False labels consist of badges, certifications, and labels that realistically mean nothing or are completely irrelevant to the product. Some companies even award themselves with certificates or endorsements that are not backed by a relevant authority, making their products seem environmentally friendly to the average consumer even if they aren’t. While government regulations are starting to crack down on this practice around the world, it has been occurring for many years and will continue for many more before it is fully stopped.

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.