As environmental concerns become increasingly important to consumers, many a business has touted the eco-friendliness of its products, only to have its reputation tarnished by greenwashing accusations. Greenwashing (making products seem more sustainable than they really are) is not always done purposefully: sometimes businesses really are doing their best, but paint a picture that looks rosier than reality.
The key to avoiding this is transparency. Here are some key do’s and don’ts to ensure that your company doesn’t accidentally stray into greenwashing territory.
- Do be truthful and accurate. Don’t say anything that is incorrect or an exaggeration. Also, don’t make sustainability claims if you’re simply complying with legal requirements.
- Don’t use vague or misleading language. One greenwashing classic is the term “all-natural”, which gives an impression of greenness and healthiness that can be deceptive. Mercury and arsenic are all-natural, yet they are also toxic pollutants that are neither green nor healthy.
- Conversely, do be clear and specific about your product’s sustainability benefits, use figures, and provide evidence of your claims. If you make clothes with 20% organic cotton, mention “20% organic cotton” on the care label, rather than claiming “made with organic cotton” which lets your customers think that the garment is 100% organic. If you’re taking climate action, let the world know what proportion of your emissions you’ve been able to reduce and offset.
- Do prioritise meaningful changes. If you claim to be carbon neutral because you’ve planted enough trees to offset all your emissions, yet have made no attempt to reduce said emissions, I’m sorry to report that you’re in greenwashing territory. (If you’re unsure how to begin reducing emissions, we have plenty of impactful ideas to get you started.)
- Do value progress over perfection. No need to claim that your product is 100% eco-friendly if it isn’t, but do tell your customers about your progress. They’ll welcome your efforts to become more sustainable, even if you’re not all the way there yet.
If you’re already taking climate action or just thinking of getting started, we at MyFootprint can help you find ways to reduce your impact, track your progress and communicate your goals and data-backed results - a greenwashing-proof way to let the world know about your efforts for the planet.
By Gala Anania, Climate Evangelist at myFootprint