What you need to know about greenwashing
In this article, we take a look at the popular term Greenwashing, why brands are doing it, and how you can educate yourself and others in order to avoid it.
October 14, 2021
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As the demand for sustainability and a more planet-friendly lifestyle continues to rise, the need to understand what brands are actually doing to care for the environment is becoming more important than ever. This move to conscious consumerism is, of course, wonderful, but with so many brands now claiming to be eco-friendly when they're not, it is making it difficult to know who to trust.
In this article we take a look at the rise of Greenwashing, why brands are doing it and how you can educate yourself and others about it so you can help avoid it.
What is greenwashing?
Greenwashing involves businesses selling under the guise of being sustainable. What makes greenwashing so complicated is how broad the term is and how hard it can be to identify. For example, a fast-fashion brand might release a dress claiming it's made using recycled materials. The marketing surrounding this dress is oversaturated with slogans and symbols relating to environmentally-friendly practices. This well-established brand is telling us it's a sustainable dress, so why would we question this?
In reality, this dress is made in the same factory, using the same materials as their other dresses. This so-called sustainable dress has the same amount of plastic and the same carbon footprint as all other dresses this fast fashion brand sells—we're simply told it's different. We are lead to believe it was a conscious garment, made with the planet in mind which is not the case.
Alternatively, this dress might be created using recycled polyester and manufactured by workers receiving a fair wage. However, this is one dress out of thousands. The money we spend purchasing this sustainable dress feeds back into a corporation that fuels fast fashion habits. The money we're pumping into this system is churning out greenhouse gases, polluting our oceans, releasing toxic fumes, and subjecting workers to unethical working conditions. This brand is greenwashing its ethos and it's manufacturing methods through one sustainable item of clothing. Their do-good attitude might seem progressive from the outside, but in reality, it is a harmful sales tactic that pushes us to invest in their brand.
What is greenwashing not?
Having a solid understanding of what greenwashing is not can help us decipher between greenwashing and authentic, sustainable companies. Brands that are true to their sustainability pledge have transparency at their core. These brands truly value openess and use it as their key marketing strategy.
Sustainable brands understand being honest with their customers builds trust. Therefore, a sustainable brand will always be open about their materials, manufacturing and workers rights. The majority of these brands should display this information clearly on their website. If they fail to display these details, they'll be more than happy to answer any questions via email. Don't be afraid to reach out and ask questions; it's your right as a consumer to fully understand what you're investing in and where your money is going!
Greenwashing is not a method used by sustainable brands who work to give back and do better through their business pursuits — these brands are eco-friendly and environmentally driven and deserve your trust.
How to spot greenwashing
The first way to spot greenwashing is by looking at how honest and open a brand is. If they are leaving out key information about their manufacturing and materials, it’s probably because they’ve got something to hide.
If you've investigated the materials and manufacturing of a brand, but you're still concerned about greenwashing (this is totally reasonable, as companies greenwashing their products know what they're doing!), there are a few more steps you can take.
A great way to understand how eco-friendly a brand is is to look at third-party websites. Websites such as Good On You and Sustainable Brand Index break down how sustainable a brand is. These companies investigate a range of statistics and information on each brand to declare how sustainable they are. Divulging information on animal welfare, labour conditions, environmental impact, and more, these brands provide all the information you need to know about how ethical and environmental a brand is.
Big brands with little to no history of sustainable practices are highly likely to be greenwashing their products. These big corporations won’t sacrifice their profit, and therefore, won’t be transforming their multi-million dollar businesses to be more eco-friendly. If these brands are claiming to be sustainable, consider how likely this is, and where the money you invest in them will be going.
Issues are currently on the rise
As the demand for sustainable practices increases, big corporations are turning to greenwash to appease their customers. The problem with this is the expenditure these businesses have. These large corporations have unimaginable marketing budgets; they can pay large sums of money to make their greenwashing near impossible to identify.
Consumers are being bombarded with brands claiming to be sustainable which is making it increasingly difficult to identify the good from the bad. As businesses continue to pay their way to the top of the eco-friendly ladder, being able to tell which brands are honest and reliable is going to be even more difficult.
Why are so many brands greenwashing?
Consumerism is beginning to change as more and more people are becoming more aware about where their purchases are coming from and at what cost to the planet. People are now prioritising sustainable brands because they understand the positive impact these businesses are having on the environment. In comparison, recent years have highlighted how damaging fast fashion is to our environment.
The transition from fast fashion to sustainable, slow fashion is gaining momentum and larger corporations understand this transition will result in significant changes in their profits and popularity. These brands are tapping into consumers' eco-conscious mindsets and promising to fulfil their environmentally friendly ambitions. Greenwashing brands want to appear as though they're providing the same service and having the same impact as sustainable brands. By doing this, these brands believe they won't lose relevancy and can retain their customers who are beginning to turn to eco-friendly alternatives.
Understanding the psychology and the motivation behind greenwashing can help us identify the brands most likely to employ this marketing strategy. Although recognising greenwashing is difficult, being a more conscious consumer can help us distinguish between the real sustainable brands and those greenwashing.
If you are serious about living a more sustainable lifestyle and learning more about the fight against fast fashion, then you might also be interested in our blog post on 5 conscious questions to ask yourself before buying new clothes or if you would like to keep up to date on what's happening here at Bon and Berg click here to join our mailing list.
Jasmine is a freelance writer and sustainable fashion enthusiast. After years of shopping in fast fashion stores and seeking out the latest trends, she discovered its quality, not quantity, that defines good fashion and style. She now curates a wardrobe she truly loves while staying true to her signature bright and bold style and channelling her love for fashion and eco-conscious ethos into her writing.