The Greenwashing AntidoteNo matter what market you are in and no matter what products you manufacture, your consumer base is increasingly demanding environmentally sustainable products.

    Most businesses are responding to these market trends in one of two ways:

    • Making their goods and services more environmentally responsible
    • Claiming their goods and services are more environmentally responsible

    One of these choices leads to more client loyalty, increased profits, and better public relations.

    The other results in a temporary PR boost, followed by a disastrous crash. 

    Making the claim that your product is environmentally sustainable without any proof, or even worse, outright lying about it, is known as greenwashing.

    Many companies practice greenwashing, and almost all of them get called out on it by environmental scientists, consumer advocates, and a growing demographic of consumers that actively seek out green products.

    Shockingly, over half of the green consumer demographic distrusts the claims being made by “green” product manufacturers. That means greenwashing is actually the most effective option for boosting sales of a new product. But it also looks like genuinely green goods have something to prove in order to separate themselves from the pack.

    The same survey found that “80 percent [of consumers] would choose a product if its packaging featured specific data detailing, for instance, how much plastic was saved over an earlier version” (emphasis ours).

    That’s right, having specific environmental data created a huge increase in consumer trust and sales.

    This is why it’s not only important to start participating in the green product market, but also to back up your claims with amazing environmental data management.

    You need to be quantifying how much waste your packing produces, how much recyclable material it contains, and how much water or energy goes into creating your product.

    If you’re worried about being perceived as a greenwasher, it is time to get yourself an environmental data management system that can manage and quantify all of your processes’ inputs and outputs.

    And here are some common greenwashing warning signs to avoid using for your own products:

    • Using official looking but meaningless certifications. Some businesses simply create their own eco-standards, design a convincing logo, and slap it on their product. Instead, only use credible third party certifications, like the Energy Star program.
    • Vague or meaningless terms. Thousands of products now have the term “eco-friendly” on it. Unfortunately, there’s no definition for this term so it can mean almost anything. Similarly, there’s no minimum threshold for claiming a product is “made from recycled materials”. Your “recycled” product might only contain 1% recycled materials. It’s far better to use real numbers to make your statement.
    • Pretty pictures of trees and animals. When environmentally responsible products first came on to the market it was a game changer to portray green valleys rather than a spotless kitchen counter. But now consumers see right past that type of imagery. The market has been over-saturated, but greenwashers don’t have much else to work with.
    • The biggest warning signs of all: the terms “eco” and “green”. These get so overused that they mean nothing anymore. It goes far beyond being meaningless that people barely look twice when they see toxic chemicals being labelled “green”. If you’re using your environmental stewardship as a selling point for your product, you would do well to avoid relying on just being “green”.

    Here’s the takeaway: smart consumers want numbers and data, not just pictures of green meadows and clear skies. 

    To understand how to manage your company in a more sustainable manner, download our guide 'The How's & Why's of Sustainability'

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    Image credit: jdog90


    This Blog Was Co-Authored By:


    Alex Chamberlain
    Post by Alex Chamberlain
    April 30, 2012
    Alex Chamberlain is a writer for ERA Environmental Management Solutions.