Greenwashing, its impact and how to fight it

Green wooden wall

Being more conscious in our everyday life is becoming more and more challenging by the day. Aware of the positive commercial impact of being eco-friendly, many companies surf on the idea and present themselves as sustainable and green. It would be awesome if it wasn’t for the fact that a lot of them benefit from a lack of regulation in labels and terminologie and are actually guilty of greenwashing.
The effect of it, apart from being harmful for the environment is that it is increasingly difficult to know whether the changes we think we are making are actually having an impact.
First things first, let’s go back to the beginning;

What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology or company practice.

Margaret Rouse

When we talk about greenwashing, we talk about the fact that some companies may appear more environmentally friendly than they actually are. It’s a “smart” business choice in a sense, as a company can use it to differentiate their product or services from its competitors by promising a greener product ( more efficient use of power, less cost over time, good for the people and/or the planet). And it’s everywhere!

To do so, those companies will use a green logo or refresh theirs to make it green (like Starbucks or Mc Donald for example) or use a “nature” design like a leaf, a flower…

Starbucks on the beach in sand
They will also plan their communication careful by using terms such as “green” or “ 100% natural”. A product said “100% natural” doesn’t automatically reflect on its sustainability. Why? Because this very product can contain ingredients like palm oil for example and we all know too much about the consequences of palm oil production. It doesn’t assure that no harmful chemicals pesticides have been used to grow the raw material. And lastly it doesn’t guaranty an animal cruelty free product.

What is it clearly in facts?

A flagrant example with the “ethics” page of the Primark website:

Primark

Photo from primark.com

As we explained in our last article, it is not possible to sell clothes at 2 or 10 euros and be sustainable. Making something takes time, and time must be paid fairly, the same goes for quality has a price. Here, Primark follow a well oiled procedure: claiming their good will and actions without providing proofs, numbers, actual science. The result is that a uniformed customer will think that this is a good step, and continue to blindly buy unsustainable products. This is Greenwashing! (Follow this link to know more about how ethical Primark really is).

The law advance slowly in the right direction though. In August 2019, the Norwegian Consumer Authority (CA) has said that the H&M Sweden provides “insufficient” information about the sustainable nature of its “sustainable style” collection.

On the bright side, some designers express themselves in favor of a change in regulation, to make it clearer.
British fashion designer Stella McCartney in an interview with Dezeen in 2018, stressed the need to impose new laws on designers, who currently “aren’t taking responsibility”.

How can it interfere in our wish for a change?

The interest of people for sustainability grew rapidly this last decade, and this is awesome. But with it, the less scrupulous companies found a new jouvence fountain. Unfortunately the offer went way faster than the regulation. And still today the different labels are still a bit shady. So all of this makes it difficult for us, as responsible consumers, to be sure that our actions have the less harmful consequences possible.
We want to do different, we want to do better, but let’s face it, it’s never been so difficult. Yes there is many options nowadays, but there is also too many and too many “fake” ones. The sad result is that while so many of us think they do good, they actually contribute little to the big change they are aiming for. This finding could discourage more than one person.

But today is more important than ever to not lose faith in our goals, focus on what is really important because after all there is no planet B.

This is why at Pocket-Up we are committed to finding the best sustainable production options and giving you full transparency on the products but also on the process. We strongly believe that we can always do better, so we are always open to comments from you. And if you have any questions, we are more than happy to answer them.

Plant on a green wall

What can we do against it?

First things first, keep a sharp eye for any sign of Greenwashing around you. Luckily there is still few easy steps we can do to counter it: Buy less, buy local and/or second hand, take time to get informed over the product you’re about to buy.

Don’t believe every adds that says:

– Hey look, we are soooooo green!

If you don’t have the time to look at every product deeply, get informed over the different “trustable” labels, it will make it easier for you to navigate during your purchases without too much damage.

On a bigger scale, talk around you, enlighten as many people as you can. If they are trying to be careful they will thank you, and if they are not maybe you’ll get to open their eyes a little bit more. Talk is always the key, with it you can also learn everyday new things. But remember, benevolence is always required.

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