Greenwashing: What is it? How can we avoid it?

Greenwashing: What is it? How can we avoid it?

In the past decade, many companies and corporations have released “green” initiatives boasting new sustainable practices they have implemented into their brand. When these brands spend more time marketing their products as sustainable, rather than actually doing the work throughout their entire production chain to protect the environment, it is called greenwashing. 

Companies that greenwash capitalize on the growing demand for environmentally and ethically sound products.

Marketing themselves as “green” or a sustainable brand is merely a symbolic reference with little to no outcomes, and muddles the importance of actual efforts to change the existing systems that harm our planet. 

Examples of greenwashing can be seen amongst various markets from fashion to food and drink to skincare and beauty, but the pervasive element amid all of them is the manipulation of actual sustainability or circular economy initiatives, making it extremely difficult for consumers to specify which companies actually mean what they say and which companies are just exploiting the public with misinformation. 

So, how can we spot it and stop it? We research! Next time before buying a product from a company that you feel may be greenwashing their consumers, ask yourself these questions:

  1. How is this company “sustainable” or “ethical”? What do those words exactly mean and why does it matter? What do those words mean to them as a business?
  2. Is the information on their production, workers, suppliers, clients, and customers readily available to the public? If so, how are they aiming to protect the environment, their employees, and their customers throughout all of those systems? 
  3. Who is the CEO? What do they do in their daily lives to cultivate a safer environment for their employees, and the planet? Are they committed to making their business intersectional, fair, and charitable?
  4. Is their proof of whatever sustainable claim they make about the product they’re selling? How do their “efforts” truly contribute to solving our climate crisis?
  5. How can this product be sustainable from its inception to its disposal? Are the materials it is made out of environmentally sound? How will the disposal of this product affect our planet?

Until companies can incorporate sustainability into their everyday practices and throughout their whole production chain, provide evidence as to how their products are made from beginning to end, and provide a safe and equitable environment for their employees, they should in no way be considered sustainable or “green.” Hold businesses accountable for making these practices habitual, and make sure to support brands who already take actionable steps toward a better planet and future!


Written by: Molly Brown