The Greenwashing Problem – has anything changed in 2023?

Greenwashing In 2023

​​Unfortunately, it’s no secret that there are those that exploit trends or political movements across the world for profits. We’ve all seen food companies create products in response to food choices like veganism and charge massive premiums for them. There are also fashion companies that pretend to be sustainable, when actually they are the opposite. But first things first, what exactly is greenwashing?

What is greenwashing?

Since big corporations have been pandering to consumers by pretending to support climate issues, it was inevitable that the issues of climate change and environmental protection would come into focus in recent years.

Essentially, greenwashing is when a country, a company, public figure or a big corporation spends time and money to make themselves appear eco-friendly, without actually being so. The downside of this is obvious – large corporations are allowed to operate and grow whilst simultaneously damaging the environment, and whilst having most convinced they are in fact a force for good.

What still motivates corporations to engage in greenwashing in 2023?

Big corporations know that consumers (especially those from the younger generations) are increasingly eco-conscious and are much more likely to purchase from businesses they see as ethical and sustainable. In fact, studies have shown that 73% of Gen Z would be willing to pay more for a product they see as sustainable. This is really significant but sustainability should not cost more. There are actually zero waste ways to save money over time with reusable products, for example by using an Oat Milk Making Kit from Kitleys or a Tofu Making Kit. 

Furthermore, studies have shown that over half of Gen Z, up to 54%, are willing to pay a 10% increase in price or more for a product viewed as sustainable over one that isn’t.

This is a big deal for corporations – the potential for profits in appealing to the younger generations in this way is massive, but the moves to actually go sustainable themselves require time and effort, not to mention being expensive. 

So, their solution? Coax younger consumers into buying their products at a premium price by branding themselves as sustainable, plus, quietly not committing the resources to actually turn sustainable and saving themselves a fortune in doing so.

Examples of greenwashing

Greenwashing can take many forms; here are a few common examples of greenwashing, some of which can be more deceptive than others.

Paper & cardboard packaging concealing plastic bottles:

Some bottled water companies have marketed their products as being sourced from pristine, untouched springs, suggesting a commitment to environmental preservation – however, investigations have revealed that the water is often derived from the same municipal sources as tap water.

There have also been occasions where plastic bottles are covered with a layer of cardboard or paper to conceal the plastic bottle inside, an even more brazen form of eco deception.

You can swap your plastic bottles for strong reusable steel ones that will last a lifetime and are more easily recyclable at end of life, so you don’t have to worry about buying bottles while you’re on the go.

Sustainability claims by fashion brands:

Big brands are charging consumers a fortune for products with misleading claims. It’s no surprise that several of them have also baselessly jumped on the sustainability bandwagon. Promoting insincere “eco-friendly” collections for profits.

However, the reality is that a lot of the fashion companies out there are unsustainable due to their reliance on resource-intensive production methods, excessive waste and questionable labour practices.

Find some of our sustainable fashion collections here

“Green” personal care products:

Numerous personal care brands have capitalised on the demand for natural and green products by labelling their items as such. 

However, upon closer inspection, many of these products contain harmful chemicals and synthetic ingredients that contradict their claims.

How do you spot greenwashing in 2023?

Greenwashing can appear in many different forms in a variety of industries. This raises the question – how can you identify it? While there is no sure-fire way to avoid greenwashing all of the time, there are some general things you can do to identify it. This is because a lot of businesses use similar methods in their attempts to market themselves as eco-friendly.

Take the time to properly understand any claims made

Judge whether what they are doing is actually beneficial for the environment, or whether it is a marketing ploy. Is what the company saying misleading from the actual issues at hand? 

Be wary of generic phrases

Vague phrases like “green” without anything to back them up should be immediate red flags. Companies who are genuinely environmentally conscious will be much more transparent about their sustainability efforts. They may also produce impact reports which are a good way to gauge data to see where the claims fit. 

Investigate certifications and labels

Just because a product has a particular certification does not guarantee that it is sustainable. Some certifications can be given out far too easily.

Trust your instincts

If something seems too good to be true and you can’t find information to back it up, it may be greenwashing. Firms like to capitalise on consumer emotions to make sales. Take a step back and make a rational, informed decision.

How has greenwashing changed in 2023?

Unfortunately, the response towards greenwashing has been somewhat slow. However, in 2023, steps are now finally being taken to punish those who purposely mislead consumers.

The EU has announced that measures will be taken to reduce the prevalence of greenwashing. They will investigate vague claims about carbon offsets, environmental performance and product labels to reduce false environmental marketing.

In practice, businesses will need to scientifically prove any environmental claims they make, plus identify any trade offs to give a full picture giving both the positives and the negatives. 

Punishments for non-compliance may result in a fine of at least 4% of that business’ annual turnover. There could also be possible bans and confiscations as part of that.

Any UK business wishing to trade within the EU will have to comply with these rules, although similar laws are being drawn up in the UK as well, which is definitely a step in the right direction – if you have made it to the end of this post, I can only assume you are committed to avoid greenwashing.

Here at ecomersh. we specialise in providing high quality and truly eco-friendly products. We strive to reduce plastic and chemical waste and the fossil fuels they are both derived from – if you would like to learn more, read all about our ethos here.

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