5 Helpful Tips For Spotting Companies That Practice Greenwashing

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Greenwashing

Although more and more companies adopt environmentally friendly practices, some still engage in greenwashing—the false advertising of eco-friendly policies. 

Greenwashing is when a company makes false or misleading claims about its environmental practices. It could be overstating the recyclability of its products, exaggerating the energy efficiency of its buildings, or claiming to use all renewable energy sources when only a tiny percentage of its power comes from renewables.

Sometimes companies engage in greenwashing unintentionally—for instance, by using outdated information or making an honest mistake. However, in many cases, it’s a deliberate attempt to mislead consumers into thinking a company is more environmentally friendly than it is.

It can be tricky to spot these dishonest businesses, but you can protect yourself and help reduce the amount of greenwashing happening worldwide with a bit of knowledge. Here are five tips to keep in mind when evaluating a company’s environmental claims.

1. Look for Vague or Unsubstantiated Claims

When a company makes broad, vague statements about its environmental practices, it may be engaging in greenwashing. For instance, a business might claim to be “eco-friendly” without specifics about what that means. Or it might boast that its products are “sustainable” without explaining how they’re sustainable or why that matters.

If a company is genuinely transparent about its environmental policies, it will provide specific, concrete information about its actions to reduce its impact on the planet. So if you see vague claims, that’s a red flag.

2. Check for Greenwashing Language

There’s a lot of technical jargon associated with environmentalism, and sometimes companies will use this language to make false or misleading claims. For instance, a company might say its products are “carbon neutral,” but they only offset a small fraction of the carbon emissions. Or it might claim to be “zero waste” when it’s sending some of its waste to landfills.

To avoid being misled by greenwashing language, familiarize yourself with standard environmental terms and what they mean. That way, you’ll be able to spot when a company is misusing them.

3. See if the Company Is Certified

Various third-party certification programs verify whether a company is meeting specific environmental standards. For instance, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certifies companies that responsibly manage forests, while the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certifies companies that fish sustainably.

If a company makes environmental claims, see if it’s certified by a program like the FSC or MSC. If it’s not, that’s a sign that its claims might not be legitimate.

4. Research the Company’s History

A company’s track record can be a good indicator of whether or not it’s engaging in greenwashing. For example, if a business has been caught making false environmental claims in the past, there’s a good chance it’s still doing so. You can learn about a company’s history by reading news articles or searching for information on watchdog websites.

5. Ask Questions

If you’re considering doing business with a company, don’t be afraid to ask questions about its environmental practices. A company that’s genuinely committed to sustainability will be happy to answer your questions and provide evidence to back up its claims.

To Sum It Up

The next time you’re looking to make a purchase, be sure to do your research on the company. Look for those that are transparent about their green practices and avoid those that seem to be hiding something. Being an informed consumer can help put an end to greenwashing and support companies genuinely committed to sustainability.