You would notice several brands that claim to be ‘pure and natural’ or use words like ‘organic’ and ‘eco-friendly’. Many of you would even buy something with such a tag over a product that does not promise environment-friendliness. But do brands really live up to their promise?
Let us learn why brands choose to greenwash their products and why this can be a problem for consumers.
What is greenwashing?
It is a marketing strategy used by brands to make their products or services look more environment-friendly than it is. The most popular example used for explaining greenwashing is the hotel sign which asks guests to reuse towels. The reason stated for this request is to save water. But most hotels that make such requests may not be cutting down on their resource consumption. They would not consider low-flow showerheads or being careful about the use of resources. This sign helps the hotel maintain an eco-friendly image.
Hotels stand to profit from the request because the laundry bills can be reduced. While water consumption may lower, it is mostly about profits than about the environment. Another example is BP’s recent ad campaigns which have suffered considerable slack for greenwashing consumers. Once you understand how brands may be greenwashing their consumers, it will be easy to identify the signs.
People who advocate for greenwashing feel that it still drives environment-friendliness to a certain extent. But there is a bigger problem with greenwashing which cannot be condoned. Here’s why greenwashing is a concern for consumers:
It Erodes customer trust
Imagine you buy a product thinking it is eco-friendly. You later realize the brand uses toxic chemicals or uses single-use plastic for packaging. This would automatically make you question other brands promoting environment-friendliness. It puts all brands under the radar for you. Even brands making a conscious effort to save the planet will become questionable. As a result, it is less likely that you will go after brands promoting sustainability. This hurts brans making an actual effort to be sustainable. Additionally, it also puts the planet at a greater risk.
It encourages companies and customers to ignore the big picture
In the effort to make a product or service look environment-friendly, brands and consumers may overlook the big picture. Just like the example of hotels, where guests see the greenwashed picture but are not aware of actual resource consumption. Many brands foster unsustainable practices but use eco-friendliness as a marketing move. Since consumers don’t know the what happens behind the scenes, they accept the brand as eco-friendly.
It transfers the responsibility of change from the brand to the consumer
Many brands are seen promoting “buy this to save the planet”. It makes customers responsible for bringing the change for saving the planet. But companies should be responsible for bring eco-friendly changes in their production processes. When businesses will be held responsible for their carbon footprint, individuals will automatically buy products that save the planet. The regulatory systems should place more emphasis on companies rather than individuals to become environment-friendly.
As an establishment that promotes bio-diversity, we see the problem posed by greenwashing. Our conservation talks during animal handling workshops are focused on promoting eco-friendliness. Greenwashing cannot be the solution that we plan for saving the planet. In our animal workshop we discuss about making informed decisions that will help the environment.
Many of our animal parties are also focused on promoting environment friendliness. Now that you know what greenwashing means, it is important to drive awareness about it. Through our animal party and animal school visit, we continuously make the effort to make people aware about its concerns. People have become more eco-conscious but companies are still a step ahead taking advantage of the green movement. Awareness will help you make the right decision.