With Earth Day coming up, I wanted to touch on a subject that I have become more and more passionate about over the past few years - greenwashing. It is something we have seen increase throughout big brands consistently and quickly - but most people don't even realize it.
So what is greenwashing? Well, a straight-forward answer from a quick search will say it is "disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image." In other words, it is a corporation claiming their products are good for the environment when in fact, they are the opposite.
A few examples of greenwashing are:
Nestle’s “Eco-Shaped Water Bottles”
Ever Spring cleaning brand from Target
Love, Beauty, and Planet products
“Take Back” programs from shops like H&M
Let's be honest - because of the way the world is (primarily thanks to the large-scale corporations) it can be incredibly difficult to develop a product and a business that is 100% good for the environment. There are so many factors that come into play, such as how much energy is required to make the product, packaging, and shipping. They are all aspects you have to look at when promoting an eco-friendly product.
Here is a list of just a few ways you can ethically promote your eco-friendly product.
1) Be transparent in where your products come from and the process it takes to make them.
Who is making your products? (If you have no idea, that might be a problem.) Are they made locally? What kind of materials are you using to make your product & are you SURE everything was craft from sustainable materials?
These are all questions that your customers will want to know & honesty will offer you longevity, trust, and brand loyalty like no other.
2) Make sure your packaging is sustainable - like for real.
How sustainable is your packaging? I am not talking about labeling your product as recycle-able and putting the responsibility on your consumer. What I do mean is, how are you offering to help your customers reduce their footprint?
Ideally we would all use ethically sourced paper with natural dyes but of course, not all products can be held in that. So what do you do when that is the case?
One great example is Lush Cosmetic's take-back plan. Now, please remember that not all take-back plans are as ethical as they claim to be, but with Lush, they directly turn the pots used to carry their products into more of the same pots to hold similar product. (In return for giving back the packaging you get a free face mask.) What makes this different?
Well, for example, when H&M offered a take-back option, you traded one bag of clothing for a voucher to their shops that don't even cover the cost of one item. This means that in order to use the voucher you had to spend more money at H&M - which in the long run produces more waste. And where do the clothes go? Their website offers examples of where they could go - but not many specifics. (Again, being transparent is SO IMPORTANT.)
3) For every problem - aim to develop a solution.
The amount of pollution produced by packages being shipped throughout the world lies somewhere between 18%-30% of all global air pollution. Because of this, when having products shipped to me, I look to see if they offer Carbon Neutral Shipping which is the process of implementing practices throughout other areas of your business that reduce energy and fuel consumption
In other words, if your product or getting your product to consumers in causing a negative impact - try to find the solution. (Another example is Ecosia - a search engine who plants trees, which helps to offset the energy use of its servers.)
4) Get certifications that mean something.
Let's be honest most certification programs have EASY loopholes that allow room for major corporations to greenwash. Programs like Certified B Corp and 1% For The Planet are both examples of Environmental Certifications that can help get your message of sustainability across. Even with those certifications though - be sure to practice what you preach!
5) Invite criticism from your customers.
Like I said before - it isn't the easiest process to create a brand that is truly sustainable and mistakes can be made so easily from the tiniest of details. So allowing room for your customers to criticize and educate you is imperative. Being prepared to act and improve on any mistakes that may be made with the mindset that it is all for the betterment of our planet will show your customers that you really do care.
Ethical Eco-Friendly business models aren't going anywhere.
Through a study developed by Nielson, 73 percent of consumers said they would "definitively or probably change to their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment." In that same survey, 63% of Americans said it was "extremely or very important that companies implement sustainable practices."
The prevalence of our human impact on the environment isn't going away any time soon and consumers are only becoming more and more aware of marketing tactics used - so be smart with your business and avoid greenwashing.
Do you need help getting your brand from point A to point B when it comes to incorporating ethical and eco-friendly marketing practices? Get in touch - we want to work with you!