• Dan Pontarlier

What Does Greenwashing Mean?

Greenwashing is a term you may have heard, in today’s blog I break it down so you understand what the term means and how you can tell if a company is doing it.Let me just clarify, that it happens across all industries, food, fashion, agriculture, hospitality and travel… In order for us to know when we are being ‘greenwashed’ it’s important we understand what it means and why people do it!

What is Greenwashing?  

My business partner at Ethical Brand Directory actually explains it perfectly here:

“In a nutshell – greenwashing is the spread of misleading information to gloss over the bad stuff and get people to focus on the good stuff (usually a small piece of the overall picture), in order to make a company appear more environmentally friendly than it really is”

Source: Roberta Style Lee.

I don’t think I can articulate it any clearer than that!

White Lies and Green Lies

I’m sure you’ve heard of white lies? Again, another seemingly harmless act of glossing over the truth for a more favourable outcome. We do it all the time, an example of this is telling someone the dinner they cooked for you was delicious, when in fact you thought it was tasteless. We’re all guilty of this. Green lies are related to our sustainability efforts - and many of us make out we recycle more than we do, for example.  

But what about Whitewashing?

“An expression called ‘whitewashing’ is a more commonly known attempt to hide unpleasant facts and make people trust political parties”.

Source: Ethical Brand Directory

So where does greenwashing come into it?  

Unfortunately, when you’re a business ‘white-lies’ are not acceptable and create an illusion that you are better than you actually are, for us, the consumer, it’s misleading and can result in us supporting companies that do not deserve our money!

“Greenwashing is the eco-version of white lies – it’s an attempt to appear more green, sustainable and ethical and distract people from the every-day reality of what’s not being done”.

Source: Ethical Brand Directory

How do I know if a company is greenwashing?

It’s actually not that easy to spot - which is why it goes unnoticed so often. The best way to help you understand it is to offer an example of a couple of businesses which are often scrutinised for greenwashing.

H&M is often in the media announcing their plans to use more sustainable materials or doing a customer clothing take-back scheme in a bid to avoid clothing going to landfill… This is a very clever way for the company to make us focus on what they ‘are’ doing rather than looking at their business model which is at the very core, unethical and unsustainable in every sense. They have the budget to use marketing as a smokescreen. Primark also launched a campaign called #Primarkcares which caused outrage in the ethical fashion community, my business partner Roberta also got enraged about this and took to Twitter to vent. Here’s a snippet from her blog that talks about Primark and why they don’t really care at all, and why this is another example of greenwashing to look out for:

“Recently, fast-fashion retailer, Primark, started their nationwide campaign: #PrimarkCares. This is greenwashing or ‘purpose washing’ at it’s finest. How can a business based on a fast-fashion model that exploits cheap labour claim to care? It’s like BooHoo’s claims of being sustainable. Laughable. The model these businesses are built on pushes cheap labour and vastly produced clothing at the expense of workers and the planet.  The bottom line is producing a high volume of product (even if it’s cheaper and made with sustainable cotton) just isn’t sustainable when you put the welfare of the planet first.”

Source: Roberta Style Lee

For a more detailed overview of what to look out for and what you can ask the brands, please refer to an excellent post on Ethical Brand Directory which goes into greater depth: https://ethicalbranddirectory.com/what-is-greenwashing/

I hope you found this useful and informative, and please let me know if you’ve spotted any companies who are greenwashing… it’s up to us to call them out on it.  

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