Demand for sustainable business practices has massively increased in the past couple of years. Consumers are becoming more and more aware of the impact that their purchases have on the environment and consequently have started holding companies accountable for their actions too. However, some companies have managed to ride on the trend, and find a skirt around accountability… you may have heard of it, it is called Greenwashing!
Greenwashing refers to the act of providing misleading information to make consumers believe that the company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is. It can range from making false marketing claims to providing misleading information in reports and purposely omitting specific facts. Unfortunately, companies can easily slap “eco” or “sustainable” on their packaging or website and get away with it.
Greenwashing, through deceiving information, takes attention away from real and pressing environmental threats. This means that companies (intentionally or not) are taking advantage of your goodwill. For example, companies may claim that their products are sourced from entirely recycled materials, exaggerating details in order to make their products more popular and only adding to problems surrounding sustainability.
Let’s talk facts. Did you know that nearly 60% of sustainability claims by fashion brands are greenwashing? On top of this, 42% of companies’ sustainability credentials are either exaggerated, false, or deceptive (Akepa, 2022). With 72% of customers demanding sustainability information to be clearly communicated by producers, it is critical that we understand how to identify and use it wisely.
Curious about how to avoid brands that practice Greenwashing? First, always look for certifications such as B Corporation or Fair Trade. As a company that is currently going through the (very lengthy) certification process, we can guarantee you that any company that has gone through the thorough B Corp assessment has the best of intentions. All B Corp companies are legally required to consider the impact of their decisions and achieve a minimum score against a set of social and environmental standards.
Secondly, always cross-check the claims you read. There are a number of great resources to help you check brand ratings while you shop and discover ethical and sustainable labels. For example, the Good on You App focuses on the fashion sector and does the hard work for you by providing a rating based on its sustainability and environmental practices. Finally, and this may be difficult to hear - be prepared to invest a little more. Unfortunately, for the time being, companies who pay for Fair Trade and use sustainable materials end up paying more to manufacture their products. Sadly, buying sustainable products and taking the sustainable approach is still more expensive.
In short, greenwashing could lead you into thinking that you’re supporting products and brands that align with your own eco-friendly values when really, they don’t. But hopefully, now you know how to ride your way around it.
The SYP Team