Solving the Greenwashing Confusion

and helping your brand in the process

Photo by Robert Ruggiero on Unsplash

Being accused of greenwashing can hurt your business.

For most brands and businesses, sustainability is the hottest word right now. But does it mean sustainability is their priority? Nope. Not always.

Actually, not by a long shot.

The number of brands proclaiming sustainability versus the number of brands being true to the cause is unfortunately disproportional. That’s why, as the need for sustainability rises, the public trust in green stickers on product packages declines.

How do we differentiate between the good and the bad green guys?

First, we need to understand the difference between greenwashing and honest efforts when it comes to sustainability.

For the most part, this is an issue of integrity & transparency.

Greenwashing is when a company spends more time and money on marketing itself as environmentally friendly than actually putting effort into the cause.

It comprises misleading claims made to promote a dishonest image of caring for the environment.

Greenwashing can include:

  • Self-created labels such as “100% organic” with no actual proof.
  • Broad and vague claims such as “all-natural everything!”.
  • Heavy green imagery on products to paint the “sustainable” picture.
  • Hidden trade-offs (making sustainability claims while having a non-environmentally friendly trade-off).
  • Irrelevant claims.

Why companies do it

It’s simple. Today, perceiving a brand as environmentally friendly creates a positive image and attracts customers that care about sustainability issues. People are more inclined to choose a product labeled as „eco-friendly“.

This is a two-edged sword, though.

Consumers who choose eco-friendly products care about the environment and their ecological footprint. They invest time & effort in researching the brands they are choosing. And if the word gets out a particular company wasn’t all that honest with their sustainability claims, it can cause serious reputation damage with detrimental consequences.

For example, recently a South Korean cosmetics brand launched a new beauty product claiming their bottle is 100% recyclable and made from paper.

It was marketed with all the green bells and whistles, too. Sustainable, eco-friendly, with a prominent headline “Hello, I’m paper bottle”.

By all accounts, they were ‘all-in’ in their campaign.

It didn’t take too long, though, for consumers to notice this paper bottle was crumbling and deteriorating, only to reveal it’s ugly, hidden truth.

Of course, their team worked tirelessly to spin this PR catastrophe (who admits being at fault these days, really). And claimed:

“This product is called ‘paper bottle’ to make it easier to explain the role of paper labels wrapping outside of the bottle.”

and

“However we understand that the entire container can be seen as paper material because of the product name. We are deeply sorry for the confusion caused and will try to deliver more accurate information to you.”

But the damage is done. And even more consumers grow skeptical.

How your brand can avoid the greenwashing label

As previously noted, greenwashing can harm your brand credibility and make your consumers lose trust in you. Always think twice before making unsubstantiated “green“ claims, no matter how tempting it may be.

Be honest about what you do and how you do it, while always striving to do better in the best way that you can.

Some important tips on how to do this:

1. Be fully transparent

Don’t deceive or confuse your customers. The more they know about your brand and your eco-friendly efforts, the more they will appreciate what you do. Always remain honest and trustworthy.

2. Do your research

Educate yourself on how your brand can make specific changes to become more environmentally friendly.

3. Practice clear communication

Reduce the risk of confusion by making information on your website clear and straightforward. Avoid vague communication and generalized messages.

4. Don’t make unverifiable proclamations and statements

Make sure you have enough provable data to support all your claims.

5. Don’t avoid tricky questions

You should always have open and direct communication with your customers. For example, if a customer points out your non-recyclable packaging, be sure to respond with how your company plans on dealing with this issue in the future and what steps you are taking to improve.

Invite your customers to make suggestions and make them feel heard.

6. Don’t get overwhelmed

No one can become fully green overnight, and no one is expecting you to do so either. Don’t be discouraged if the steps you are making are small at first. As long as your intentions are geared in the right direction, and your communication with customers is honest, you are on the right path.

Remember, striving for sustainability is a never-ending goal. Try to make it a part of everything you do and your customers will notice.

7. Keep track of your results and improvements and share them with the public

If your customers can see an obvious change and genuine effort with successful results, they will want to be along for the ride.

Remember, it feels good to be part of something greater than yourself.

In summary

If you want to be successful as a green business, let clear, attainable goals be your guide, with a strong will for change, and above all, honest intentions.

Be green even if no one is watching, and exactly then, everyone will notice.

Thank you for reading. I decided to combine the nature of “sharing is caring” with the importance of this subject affecting us all into creating a 5-day free email course titled “How to Build Your Sustainable Brand”.

The course is currently in beta and will cover 5 different lessons that will help you better understand, grow, and attract clients to your sustainable brand.

Sign up and be the first to receive it here.

I help green start-ups and NGOs design & narrate their story. 🌿 One eco-friendly mission at a time. 👉 greentogether.design/my-process

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