There’s a lot of talk these days about going green, and more and more companies are jumping on the bandwagon to try and appeal to eco-conscious consumers. But not all of these companies are as environmentally conscious as they claim to be. In fact, some of them are guilty of greenwashing – that is, pretending to be more sustainable than they really are by making misleading environmental claims. If you’re not sure what to look for, here are 11 signs that you’re dealing with a company that may be greenwashing.
1. They make vague or unsubstantiated claims about their sustainable practices. If a company can’t back up its claims with evidence, there’s a good chance that it’s greenwashing. Be especially wary of companies that make sweeping environmental marketing claims about how sustainable they are without providing any specific details.
2. Their products are overpriced. Greenwashing practices can be a way for companies to try and justify charging more for their products. If the cost of a product is significantly higher than similar recycled items from other brands, it’s worth asking why to avoid greenwashing. If the company’s practices can’t point to the environmental benefits of its green claims then be wary of corporate greenwashing
The federal trade commission regulates false claims of environmental responsibility
3. The company uses environmental buzzwords without really understanding what they mean. Terms like “organic,” “fair trade,” and “recycled materials” can be easily abused, and many companies use them without knowing what they mean. Be suspicious of any company that uses these terms liberally but don’t seem to have a good understanding of the environmental impact of their products.
4. Products that have a complex blends of materials. Polyester, viscose, and acetates cannot be recycled as all of the materials have to be separated at the end of the product’s life cycle. If the company can’t provide details of how the product will be recycled at the end of its life their eco friendly claims may be false.
5. Their corporate environmental performance claims are too good to be true. Many companies make exaggerated or impossible-to-achieve sustainability promises in order to seem more eco-friendly. Globally only 0.1% of textiles are recycled into new products, if their claims are higher than this they may be promoting a misleading environmental claim.
Companies are making environmental marketing claims that are hard to prove
6. Pushing false solutions. Everlane’s “No new plastic” campaign suggested that using only recycled bottles for polyester would prevent more plastic from leaking into the environment, yet because polyester cannot be recycled more than once, synthetic clothes also end up as plastic pollution at the end of its life cycle.
7. They’re not transparent about their supply chain. A company that’s serious about corporate social responsibility will be open and honest about where its products come from. If a company is evasive or refuses to answer questions about its supply chain, it’s a red flag.
Consumer demand for environmentally friendly apparel is on the rise
8. They use misleading packaging. Some companies use eco-friendly packaging as a way to make their products seem more environmentally responsible, even if the packaging is not actually recyclable or compostable.
9. The sustainability initiatives are only skin deep. Many companies will make a few small changes in the name of sustainability without actually overhauling their business practices to mislead consumers. This can be anything from switching to recycled paper to using energy-efficient light bulbs. While these changes are certainly admirable, they’re not enough to make a significant difference in their carbon footprint.
Green advertisements are designed to make products look more environmentally friendly than they really are.
10. They’re not involved in any green initiatives or environmental groups. A company that cares about sustainability will likely be involved in some sort of green initiative, whether it’s supporting an environmental charity or offsetting its carbon emissions with renewable energy. If a company is completely absent from the green scene, it’s a sign that they are not serious about sustainable practices. Be sure to ask what organizations they are a member of or if they have a reliable third party certification.
11. Their products are made in factories with poor environmental track records. Unfortunately, many of the world’s largest garment factories have terrible environmental track records. If you’re buying clothes from a company that uses these factories, there’s a good chance that their sustainability claims are nothing more than greenwashing.
The environmental benefit of using less fossil fuels and toxic materials in the apparel supply chain helps to slow climate change.
Greenwashing is a rampant problem in the apparel industry. It’s important to be able to identify telltale signs of greenwashing so you can avoid companies with a high environmental impact. With a little research, you can find sustainable brands that are truly committed to sustainable development and make more informed choices about the clothes you buy.