Amongst the growing sustainability movement worldwide, “greenwashing” has become an increasing problem for ethical consumers. Greenwashing refers to the unearned and false claim that a product or company is “sustainable,” or good for the planet. Companies that participate in greenwashing pursue practices that are incongruous with the environmental movement. Many large companies use greenwashing as a tactic to profit off consumers who are hungry for eco-friendly product alternatives. When the ingredients in their products are researched or their business practices are uncovered, it is revealed that they don’t, in fact, benefit the environment.
Businesses practice greenwashing in a variety of ways. For example, they may use the color green in their packaging, which can mislead customers to believe that a product is more environmentally conscious, even if there is no additional sustainable information provided on the product. Ambiguous words like “environmentally friendly,” “eco-friendly,” and “all-natural” without substantiation can also be a sign of greenwashing.
So how can you determine when greenwashing is taking place? Read the ingredients label on your products to determine what they contain. Look for third-party certifications, such as the Rainforest Alliance and B Corporation. These certifications can be pricey, so if a company is too small to pursue third-party certification (such as Summit Sustainable Goods), look for metrics and commitments publicly displayed by the company. For example, Summit Sustainable Goods provides transparency about sustainably focused quantitative and qualitative goals, as well as information about sustainable practices used in day-to-day business interactions, on both our website and social media accounts.
Keeping an eye out for greenwashing can help keep companies accountable and ensures that information is properly distributed to customers. While it’s appealing for companies to misrepresent products as earth-friendly to follow trends and create more sales, we know that when it comes to eco-friendly products, it’s truly about the planet, not profit and the bottom line. So next time you’re shopping, make sure you’re checking your products for greenwashing practices.