Greenwashing, From the Eighties till Today (Part 2)

Editor’s note: This is the second of two articles published concerning greenwashing, both historically and at present. This week’s article examines some alternatives and strategies for avoiding the practice. The first article can be seen here.


What are the Alternatives to Greenwashing?

Trying to check every green claim or eco-credentials a brand pushes can be tiring. Fortunately, there are some great online tools and search engines like Project Cece, Ethical Made Easy and STAIY that do the hard work for you.

There are many large organizations embodying sustainability and environmentalism at their core. When companies interact in a holistic way by incorporating this ethos into their supply chains, products, employment practices and more, you can be sure they are not greenwashing.

Another company that makes sustainability differently is Roar Gill, a biodegradable alternative to Nespresso coffee capsules. Along with producing coffee, the Roar Gill team is committed not only to carbon neutrality, but to continuous improvement.  The most important feature that distinguishes it from other brands is that it is a brand that goes beyond. From planting trees to balancing emissions to roasting their kernels using wind and solar power, no stone is left unturned when it comes to improving their eco-responsibility. They even went so far as turning down the opportunity to work with some supermarkets that don’t share the brand’s eco vision.

Roar Gill is also officially certified with CO2 neutral roasting processes.  They take a carbon neutral approach to capsule production, use only recyclable packaging materials, and work with a partner to provide additional tree planting to deliver a carbon negative approach.  Offering a sustainable approach underpins Roar Gill’s values,” explains the brand. Compostable capsules, CO2-neutral roasting and CO2-neutral capsule production go a long way towards achieving this. However, they also stated that they always aimed to go further. The goal of the firm is to bring a broader perspective on carbon emissions beyond what they do. In addition, those wishing to order coffee from Roar Gill can opt for afforestation projects and deliveries to be carbon offset in key coffee growing nations.

How to Avoid Greenwashing?

Believing that consumer demand for sustainability is at the edge of our transition to a greener, fairer and smarter global economy, Futerra’s 2015 Sales Sustainability Report summarizes 10 key brand marketing tactics to avoid:

  1. Fluffy language: Words or terms that don’t have a clear meaning
  2. Green products against dirty companies: For example, efficient light bulbs made in a factory polluting rivers
  3. Obscene pictures: images that give a (unjustified) green impression
  4. Irrelevant claims: Emphasis on a little green trait when everything else is against green
  5. Undeserved pride on being best in class: Stating that you are a little greener than others, even if the rest are pretty scary
  6. Unbelievable definitions: For example, “greening” a dangerous product to look safe (“eco-friendly” cigarettes)
  7. Gobbledygook: Jargon and information that only a scientist can check or understand
  8. Imaginary friends: A label that looks like a third party endorsement … except it’s made up
  9. No proof: a claim that may be true but lacks evidence
  10. Exact lies: Fully fabricated claims or data

We realize that greenwashing is an unusually successful – some may say insurmountable – marketing ploy to convince the public that certain companies’ efforts to generate profits are better at achieving environmentally friendly benefits. There are, however, solutions.

Part of the solution may be validation. Groups that validate a company’s sustainability claims can highlight truly effective initiatives while leaving greenwashers behind. Correct and thoughtful reviews of greenwashers can also help – or a culture of skepticism can lead companies to take quantifiable measures to reduce their carbon footprint. The only green businesses that can survive are those that can prove their claims, those legitimately involved in sustainable behavior.

It can feel overwhelming to be one person trying to make a difference, but if consumers continue pressuring businesses to be transparent around their practices, it is inevitable that public will become more aware about it and, hopefully, continue moving in a more authentically green direction. And the good news is that greenwashing is becoming less common in both small and large businesses.

A thoughtful consumer base and increased awareness of environmental issues are making the industry greener.


Image courtesy of Flickr. Originally published by S&S on Mar. 3, 2021.


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