How to Avoid Greenwashing

Real eyes realise real lies; how to carry on shopping sustainably

How to Avoid Greenwashing
Milo Latham
Milo Latham
August 15, 2022

11 years ago, I bought a Dib-Dab from a local corner-shop; for the unenlightened of you, a Dib-Dab is a pouch of sherbet sugar with a lolly in it and you use the lolly to eat the sugar; good for the soul, bad for the teeth. Shockingly, this Dib-Dab did not contain its signature red lolly and I was left with a handful of sugar, tears in my eyes and the taste of deceit in my mouth. This is a real picture of the moment I realised I was lied to:

source: Me

This wasn’t the first time a company has lied to its innocent consumers. It happens a lot and sometimes the stakes are bigger than mere lollies, sometimes the stakes are as big as the entire planet . I’m talking about greenwashing.

Greenwashing occurs when companies claim to have a positive environmental impact, but are actually doing very little to help dear Mummy Earth. There’s been a lot written about the different ways greenwashing exists, and the corporations who are most guilty of it. This blog lists some of the ways we, as consumers, can try to see through the lies and avoid companies dastardly attempts to greenwash.

Do Your Research

Ok I know this is pretty obvious, but it’s incredible how effective good marketing can be. It is by no means uncommon for brands to brag about merely being legal (CFC-Free) and only being sustainable in a very small part of its product life-cycle.

This bombarding of mis-information can make things pretty disparaging for us shoppers, but it is certainly possible to scratch under the surface of retailers claims with a good Google and not just rely on their own focus-group-tested marketing. Or we can let others do that research for us…

source: The Mirror

Look For The B

Seeing as sadly no-one trust anyone anymore, the world is run for profit and most companies have had more scandals than The Royal Family, we need a better way to hold brands to account. Thankfully several certification labels are here to help. We’ve all seen Organic and Fairtrade are the OG’s here and have done some great work in signalling to shoppers which brands aren’t too hard on their workers and the planet (tbh I have absolutely no idea what organic really means).

My favourite of these are our ol’ pals at B-Lab whose incredibly rigorous (trust me, I’ve looked into it) checklist means that only the most saintly of corps can become a certified B-Corp, proving to the world that they are good to their workers, society and of course, their planet.

source: Hawaiian Ola

The Lesser of 2 Evils

Often, companies will create similar products that have very different environmental and social effects in their manufacturing. This is obvious when we look at clothes and contemplate the difference in journey between clothes that are locally produced, and garments that have been shipped around the world. In Apparel, even the most sustainable manufacturers still inherently can have negative effects on the environment, leading to many shoppers to completely reject buying new clothes at all and move to the plethora of pre-loved wardrobe fillers available such as eBay, DePop or your nearest charity shop.

Tools & Apps - Good On You

We’re living in an era where there is an app for everything, and Good On You is a perfect example of an app that can be used to help you find sustainable brands. They are the world’s leading source for fashion-based ratings, allowing their users to learn everything they need to know about ethical and sustainable fashion. The key issues they rate brands on are; People, Planet and Animals, exploring everything from ethical working to product durability.

source: Good On You

Greenwashing seems to be fairly inevitable, some retailers will say almost anything to keep customers happy and increase profits. But that doesn’t mean we’re defenceless, through research, both independent and via third-parties, and sustainable consumer-decisions we can be planet-friendly shoppers.