Sustainable, eco-friendly, green, ethical and natural are the buzzwords most commonly used on everything we consume these days. From food to clothing, a diverse range of products as well as policies are sold under these labels. If you are one of those consumers who are concerned about the environment and wants to bring about a change in society by making informed choices, it is imperative to know what greenwashing is. Coined in 1986 by American environmentalist Jay Westerveld, greenwashing is a way to market products in a deceptive way that the consumer falls prey to believing that the company’s products and policies are eco-friendly. By using such gimmicks, several companies have tricked customers as the consumers feel that they are being responsible with their purchases.
During the 1980s, the mediums used to advertise were television, radio and print media. Thereby, it was easier for customers to get duped by such marketing stunts. Limited access to information and unlimited advertising enabled companies to mislead consumers by making false claims of doing greater good for the environment than they did. In the early 1990s, consumers were wising up to sustainability concerns and data shows that the majority of purchases were influenced by environmental factors. By the end of the decade, greenwashing had officially been introduced in the Dictionary.
In 2015, Nielsen poll showed that 66% of global consumers were willing to pay more for sustainable products. To attract the environmentalist consumers, brands started greenwashing which made it easier for corporate giants to claim for environmental contributions. The recent trend is that brands make vague claims or omit important and relevant facts. For instance, several clothing companies claimed that they sold eco-friendly bamboo clothing.
The truth was that these companies were selling rayon produced from bamboo that was processed in a way that used harsh chemicals and could potentially release hazardous air pollutants in the process. Fast fashion brands claim to be sustainable whereas their business model is based on mass production. So how can one be more aware and save themselves from getting brainwashed? Here are few points that one must consider before committing themselves to the marketing campaigns of high-end brands.
Be a smart consumer
A smart consumer is the one who knows what he or she is purchasing and how it would impact the environment. The consumer needs to be aware of the brand’s background, supply chain, manufacturing process and whether they are paying fair wages to their workers. It isn’t difficult to research and obtain information these days thanks to social media. Once you know more about the brand, you can make an informed choice.
Demand transparency from Brands
Brands spend a fortune to understand consumer behaviour and pattern. Consumer preference dictates what brands need to do in order to get their products off the shelves. Safe to say, a customer is at the top of the pyramid. An informed customer would demand specifics related to the product they are interested in. If customers alter their behaviour and enquire more info, brands will notice the change and provide more transparency.
Power of social media
As mentioned earlier, social media has numerous advantages as far as acquiring information is concerned. From following a particular brand to understanding more about its products, one can extract maximum details with minimum efforts. Consumers can directly engage with the brand or its representatives and get their queries resolved. Another interesting aspect is that they can leave their feedback/review. It not only enables them to express their opinions but also helps other consumers understand the product better. With multiple sources to refer from and real-time updates from other customers, it becomes easier to know what the product offers.
Look out for certifications
Verifying the claims is a prerequisite. When a brand claims it is sustainable, check certifications such as Bluesign, Cradle to Cradle Certified, Fairtrade Textiles Standard, Global Organic Textile Standard and Organic Content Standards. One can refer to these benchmarks for authenticity.