Is it real or greenwashing?
Earth Day is right around the corner which means you may fall victim to greenwashing.
Greenwashing is a marketing strategy that leaves consumers with the impression a business is being socially and environmentally responsible when in fact it is not. Some businesses will spend more money to push a false narrative, rather than implementing authentic sustainable business practices.
For example, in 2018, Starbucks announced a huge environmental milestone. They were going to phase out single-use plastic straws from their stores by 2020. New, sippy cup inspired lids were introduced and were going to replace a billion straws per year. That sounds amazing, right? Well, customers were quick to notice the thickness of the lids and took to the scales. It turns out that the new lids used more plastic than the original lid and straw combined. Starbucks never denied more plastic usage but claimed the lids are made from easily recyclable polypropylene (PP). Although PP can be recycled, it’s not accepted at all facilities and, as we know, only a very small percentage of all plastic actually gets recycled.
So how can we spot greenwashing and make sure we’re spending our money in the right places?
Avoid ambiguous terminology and logos that look and sound green. We tend to gravitate towards terms like natural, nontoxic, and eco-conscious. These words sound good but do they really mean anything? Natural does not always mean it’s good for us and good for the planet. Look for certified labels such as a B Corporation, PETA and Cruelty-Free, Climate Neutral, and FSC on products. These marks represent organizations that can be trusted; they can help sift through unverified terms, or unsubstantiated claims.
Do your research. Is it clear, substantiated information that can be backed up with resources? Is the business telling you where the product was made and where it came from? Do the people making the product have a fair and living wage or do they rely on slave labor? Businesses will gladly share that information if they are doing the right thing.
Transparency is better than perfection, but unfortunately, going green sells. So watch for fake, symbolic and empty promises. When it comes to authentic sustainable business, all that glitters isn’t green.