There is growing pressure on companies to be greener as an increasing number of consumers embrace ethical and sustainable shopping habits. Many brands have responded to this shift by implementing environmentally responsible business practices but there are those that portray themselves to be something they are not – enter greenwashing.
Greenwashing is a marketing tactic used to convince customers that a brand is more environmentally conscious than it is. It capitalises on the growing demand for environmentally friendly products by deliberately conveying misleading, unsubstantiated or exaggerated claims. Greenwashing hinders the growth of genuine sustainability efforts and makes ecologically sound brands difficult to spot in an overcrowded market.
The term ‘’greenwashing’’ was first used in 1986 in an essay by environmentalist Jay Westerveld following a research trip to the South Pacific islands. He recalled seeing a note asking customers to reuse their towels to reduce ecological damage and help save the environment. He found it ironic that while the hotel claimed to be concerned about the island’s ecosystem, it was undergoing development. He wrote, ‘’I don’t think they really cared all that much about the coral reefs. They were in the middle of expanding at the time and were building more bungalows… it all comes out in the greenwash’’. The essay was published by a literary magazine which had a large readership in New York City. It wasn’t long before the term caught on.
Here are 6 tips to help you spot greenwashing so that you can shop with a clear conscience.
1. Look out for brands misusing buzzwords like ‘organic’ or ‘natural’.
The BSA (British Soil Association) Organic Beauty & Wellbeing Report 2020 highlighted how conscious consumerism helped push UK sales of certified organic and natural beauty products up by 23% in 2019. According to the report, Global Web Index asked over 2,300 UK and USA based web users why they buy eco-friendly products, and 80% did so because they care about the environment. But unlike organic food and drink companies, beauty brands are not legally required to be certified. The BSA stated: ‘’A product may claim to be natural with only a few natural ingredients in it, or even just a drop of essential oil. Worse still, they may contain ingredients which wouldn’t be permitted in a genuinely certified natural or organic product. Packaging can trick us by using words like ‘organic’, ‘eco’, ‘botanic’, ‘pure’ and ‘natural’ whilst containing near to no ingredients to back up that claim.’’
Our natural and organic ingredients are responsibly sourced from small farmers and suppliers with longstanding relationships in over 45 countries worldwide. They are known to each other and share similar ethical values and fair trade practices.
We use organically grown ingredients where possible. Look out for an asterisk following some ingredients on our ingredient lists, this indicates that it is certified organic.
All our products are guaranteed to be free from genetic engineering or nanotechnology.
2. Value transparency.
Don’t let green marketing campaigns fool you.
Be aware of a lack of information or dishonesty about the environmental impact of a company’s products or services.
Look for brands being upfront about their commitment to the environment. Those displaying actionable steps with well-defined deadlines.
Our products are formulated in The Netherlands by our founder, Karmen Novak, and manufactured in a leading natural skincare laboratory in Switzerland. The lab was awarded ‘Certified Sustainable Economics Standard (CSE)’ in 2012 for its ethical, ecological and economic excellence.
We are committed to reducing our impact on the environment and conducting business with honesty, integrity and transparency.
3. Beware of branding and imagery.
Read labels carefully instead of being swayed by images of nature and earth logos that give an unfounded green impression.
4. Read ingredient lists.
Take a closer look at the ingredient list to find out what’s in a product.
Ingredient lists, known as INCI (international nomenclature of cosmetic ingredients) lists, show ingredients in descending order of concentration. CosmeticsInfo.org is a helpful resource for decoding INCI names for a better understanding what an ingredient is, what it does and why it’s in the product.
5. Pay attention to packaging.
Packaging has a huge impact on the environment, with single use plastic packaging being the worst offender and accounting for almost half of all global plastic pollution.
Pay special attention to a brand’s packaging. Is it aligned with the eco conscious image they’re portraying?
The most eco-friendly packaging is zero packaging, but that’s not always an option, so look out for brands investing in sustainable packaging solutions and those working hard to reduce their impact on the environment by continually seeking out greener alternatives.
We are acutely aware of our impact on the planet and carefully consider our selection of packaging materials when formulating our products. Our products are packaged in glass bottles and pots. Glass is 100% recyclable and can be used again and again. Simply rinse out once empty and recycle according to local guidelines. Or even better, reuse them as herb and spice containers, to store spare buttons, pins and needles or as candle holders.
6. Be suspicious of unsubstantiated and irrelevant claims.
Truly green brands are fully transparent and back their claims up with detailed facts.
Be wary of brands that fail to stipulate whether their environmental marketing claims refer directly to the product, the packaging or just a portion of either, and that exaggerate any ecological attribute or benefit.
Be on the lookout for brands using irrelevant marketing claims in an attempt to mislead customers and appear environmentally friendly, like ‘free from’ claims pertaining to ingredients that are already banned by law.
What can you do to help reduce greenwashing so that truly sustainable brands can stand out?
Do your research, use your purchasing power positively and if you spot greenwashing, call it out.
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