What Is Greenwashing?

Do you know what you’re buying? No, really. Do you? A lot of people, me included, think we know what we’re buying– after all, there are labels on everything right? Food, clothing, toys. Everything has a label with the “made in” and the “made out of” info right on the tags. Unfortunately, you shouldn’t believe everything you read– especially when it could very well be just great marketing. 

Greenwashing is basically when companies use buzzwords like “sustainable” or “all-natural” or “green” to con you into buying their products. So where’d the word come from? 

Long story short, in 1986 a man named Jay Westerveld was on vacation when he noticed that a nearby hotel he’d walked into had signs up requesting that guests re-use towels. Of course, they said they were protecting the environment. The irony of the matter is that despite the claims, the resort was in the middle of a large expansion.

So therein lies the question. Were they really all that concerned about the environment, or were they cutting back on spending to fund their expansion? I guess we know what Mr. Westervelt thought.

Why Do Companies Greenwash?

While a lot of companies greenwash, they don’t always have malicious intent. Here are a few of the reasons companies greenwash their products:

 To appeal to the eco-conscious consumer. 

Anything and everything green is trending right now. So how does a company stay relevant as public awareness of environmental issues grow? They go green… (even if that just means the packaging).

To gain a competitive advantage over their rivals.

According to businesswire, studies show that consumers have become more environmentally conscious in their shopping over the years. In fact, 85% of consumers have adapted more sustainable purchasing habits. 

That means paying more for sustainable products, and shopping for more sustainable brands.

To respond to pressure from the government, and the public. 

It’s no secret that the world is facing a huge climate crisis… and if you have any doubts, all you have to do is ask yourself why a NASA scientist would risk his job and reputation to chain himself to a Chase building. 

The answer is, as greenhouse gas emissions go up, so does the pressure to be more sustainable.

Where Do We Go From Here?

These days disaster is coming at us from all sides. From COVID-19 to global warming and biodiversity loss, it seems like the ish just keeps on coming, the effects of which can be said to be both good and bad. On the one hand, awareness of the growing environmental crisis has resulted in an exorbitant amount of greenwashing, which does not help anyone, least of all the planet. On the other hand, sustainable companies and startups are increasing rapidly. But however cliche this phrase may be, our work is far from done. But the first step always starts with awareness. Organizations like ConsiderBeyond can help with this.

Need some motivation?

Here you go: Climate Clock. I think this number needs no elaboration.