Greenwashing: quello che dovresti sapere

Every day, we are encouraged to buy "eco-sustainable" products. Often, product labels can confuse us to such an extent that we think we have purchased eco-friendly products even when this is not the case.

With a increased awareness of consumers who are increasingly concerned about the environment, the market has also changed. The discerning consumer is willing to spend more to buy products that have less impact on the planet. On the one hand, it is wonderful to see that there are brands willing to get involved to guarantee their consumers ethical and sustainable products. On the other hand, several have developed to meet the surge in demand for eco-friendly goods business strategies that aim only for profit.

Indeed, sustainability has become one fashion . It is increasingly “cool” to buy eco-friendly products. This trend has also led to an increase in products that are sold for "green" when they are not. Greenwashing is a practice to which we all bite sooner or later and that is why I have chosen to tell you about it.

What is greenwashing?

The greenwashing is a marketing strategy used by companies to build a more environmentally friendly self-image than it actually is. In practice, companies that have a negative impact on the environment try to divert the attention of public opinion from the negative effects due to their activities or the production of their products.

L' etymology of the word comes from green (green) e washing (to wash). The term recalls the verb to whitewash (literally "cover", used with a meaning like "hide the dust under the carpet"). As for me, it also evokes a connection with brainwash , that is, brainwashing, even if it has no actual connection.

Greenwashing companies are more focused on "looking green" than actually investing their resources to minimize their impact on the planet.

Many products are defined as "natural", "eco-friendly", "eco bio", "bio" and "green" without a valid reason. As I wrote in the my article Regarding the differences and definitions of the labels, there are no precise rules for many terms used, so there are also no certifications or recognized symbols on the labels. The term "bio" is the safest in Italy because, to be defined as such, the product must be certified organic. There is a lot confusion and there are many brands that declare themselves natural, green and eco-sustainable without having the necessary characteristics.

How do companies look green?

1. Misleading labels

Pay attention to the labels. Often, when a product is referred to as "100% natural" or "certified natural" without any information to support these claims, we are faced with self-claims. For example, the term "biodegradable" that we can often find on plastic products may seem eco-friendly. But when we think of the term itself, we immediately understand that "biodegradable" is not a certification or even a specific statement (sooner or later that product will disappear, but when?).

2. Visual communication based on nature

A great way to create confusion is to use visual communication. A photographic treatment with images of wild animals and, more generally, of nature is often used. Truly eco-friendly brands try to focus on the product and prefer simple packaging with equally simple images, trying to avoid unnecessary marketing gimmicks.

3. Hidden data

Companies often define themselves as “green” only for a single aspect of their environmental impact. For example, a product made with recycled material may seem like an ecological purchase but it is not always. More information on the environmental impact of the product from the manufacturing process to the distribution process is needed to determine if it is truly green.

4. The lesser evil

Some companies try to trick us into thinking they are eco-friendly by using slogans that don't really have a positive connotation for the environment. They compare themselves with their competitors, without recognizing their actual impact on the environment. Green pesticides can be less harmful to the environment compared to other pesticides, but this does not mean that they are safe for the environment. Fuel-efficient cars may also consume less than others, but that doesn't mean they don't consume anything.

5. Unnecessary slogans

It is very easy to read irrelevant statements. Unnecessary information is disclosed to distract a consumer from truly more eco-friendly options. Would you be tempted to buy a product that has never been tested on a dodo? Of course not, since they are extinct. This is exactly the point. You should not be swayed by purchasing a product advertised as “chlorofluorocarbon free”, as they have been banned by law for some time.

A striking example of greenwashing are the chains of fast fashion like Zara and H&M who are starting to talk about more sustainable materials. We know that the fashion industry is the second most waste-generating industry in the world. And fast fashion is the main cause. With their "eco-friendly" and "sustainable" products, these brands try to " wash out ”The concerns of us consumers for the production of their products.

What can I do to avoid it?

To avoid greenwashing you need to:

  • Evaluate a brand as a whole , including its environmental sustainability policies, stance towards animal testing and labor rights.

  • Look for information on the brand of our interest. Google it, read other opinions, read articles about it.

  • Use applications designed for this. For example, in the fashion world, Good On You is great. The app evaluates a brand based on its respect for the environment, people and animals. Their database contains more than 2,000 fashion brands rated against a robust ranking system for their impact on people, the planet and animals. They give a score out of five for each category and an overall score.

  • Read the labels of the individual products. The first time I tried to read a cosmetic label, I don't know what confused me the most between Latin, English and chemistry. After a few years, I wrote a guide on how to do it!

And let's remember guys, that although there are many decidedly sustainable, ethical and genuine options and alternatives to all the products we have always used, the most sustainable option is the one we already have .

It is useless to try to fight waste by continuing to buy things! We treasure what we have, we try to reinvent it, renew it, exchange it and so on and so forth.

Vittoria Tomassini