As we push towards sustainability and a movement of environmental stewardship, we hope to put our money where our mouth is. We aim to support the companies financially that promote eco-friendly solutions. However, this comes with its flaws, as companies desperately try to appeal to their social-conscious customers, they advertise and promote this image of “doing their part” when in actuality they are not. We know this rising phenomenon as greenwashing as is a marketing tactic that many of your favorite brands like to use.
What is Greenwashing?
As Cambridge Dictionary likes to define it, Greenwashing is “to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is.” This stems from an understanding from companies that their consumers are becoming more and more conscious of social issues and trying to express them through their purchasing decisions. A study conducted by Nielsen states that 63% of consumers under the age of 40 are socially conscious and willing to pay more for socially responsible products/services. The growing movement doesn’t stop just there; Nielsen’s survey also states that nearly half of consumers around the world will pay extra for a product from companies that give back to society. With this understanding, companies aim to promote an image of social responsibility and conduct even if it isn’t what it seems behind the scenes. This proves problematic as their clueless misguided consumers continually support these companies who really aren’t doing much to support their movement.
How is it Happening?
Over the past few years, greenwashing was easily spottable with things such as recyclable water bottles that actually ended up in foreign landfills. However, companies are changing the way they go about greenwashing their products. From creating environmentally conscious recycled shoes like Nike’s flyknit, to hiding the fact that the workers that make those shoes are disgustingly underpaid to the new trend nowadays which is selling vegan/vegetarian burgers that are not actually vegetarian. From McDonald’s PLT to Burger King’s Impossible Whopper, all the big fast-food chains are promoting their version of a vegetarian/vegan burger to appeal to the vegan/vegetarian consumers.
However, this can be nothing but farther from the truth, because if you think about it, even if the patty is 100% vegan what about the rest of the ingredients like the bun made with egg, or the cheese made with dairy. Furthermore, how are they making the burger? By grilling the patty on the same grill that they cook their beef/chicken products. It’s all a marketing ploy by the companies to promote this socially conscious image when in actuality they are just looking to take your money.
What Can We Do?
It’s important to talk about where to go from here instead of just listing off the negatives. According to Sustainability Times, ways we can go about preventing greenwashing include:
Going for Brands, Not Products – By financially supporting brands that are goal aligns with the social issue you are passionate about, you are less likely to fall victim to greenwashing
Are They Telling the Full Story? – Always do your own research and look at outside sources to really know if the companies you are supporting are really doing the things they say.
Don’t Forget about the Packaging – Even if their product itself is environmentally friendly or supports a certain cause, the packaging the product comes in may still be detrimental to supporting sustainability.
Find Substitutes – It’s understandable that not every product you need or want is 100% sustainable but it doesn’t hurt to look for substitutes that are.
There are a plethora of methods and tactics companies use in their marketing plans to promote a socially conscious image but by being a consumer that is armed with the right information, you can do your part in fighting for social issues.