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Greenwashing - a sustainable e-commerce expert highlights the signs to look out for

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by Startacus Admin


Fin Cope, CEO and Co-Founder of environmentally conscious marketplace GoEthical shares insights on the signs of greenwashing he looks out for to help avoid contributing to environmental harm.

aaron-burden-dXYE1d08BiY-unsplasDefined as when a company or organisation spends more time and money on marketing themselves as being sustainable than on actually minimising their environmental impact, greenwashing is the current topic of conversation in the eco-friendly sphere that no business wants to be associated with.  

Fin Cope, CEO of sustainable marketplace app GoEthical, is a leader within the sustainable retail industry and has a checklist of what to look out for when shopping with the environment in mind. With a survey finding 45% of British shoppers becoming more eco-conscious since the pandemic, it’s vital to know the signs to look out for.

1. They know all the right words to say

Fluffy language with no real explanation is the first sign to look out for. Be wary of words like ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘natural’ which are a given when discussing sustainability, but greenwashing brands won’t give much explanation. Looking beyond these words and understanding how and why they are a bonafide sustainable brand is important to ensure the company isn’t making false statements. Be careful with the way you interpret this kind of language and remember that you can’t take labels and their messaging for face value. Check to see if their claims are backed up or are just plastered across their products to drive sales.

2. A picture paints a thousand words

Pictures capture attention better than a slogan or headline as it plays on the viewer’s perception of a product. The use of the colour green, nature, leaves and animals is harnessed to give off this impression, but greenwashing brands use this without providing sufficient information to back it up. Given the power of imagery, this is often enough to convince us that we’re buying into an environmentally considerate brand. In reality, the images are there to compensate for the lack of facts to support the claims. Don’t let these images prevent you from digging deeper into the brand and if their ‘eco-friendly’ products are what they say they are.

3. Best of a bad bunch

Every company wants to be head and shoulders above their peers and being the leader in sustainability is no exception. You may see companies making claims such as ‘we’re 3x more environmentally friendly than our competitors’ but it’s important to consider if statistics like this carry any weight. 

pexels-lord-capt-coke"'lat-_brown_-senior-commander-737586The airline Ryanair found itself in hot water in 2020 following its claims that it had ‘the lowest carbon emissions of any major airline" in its adverts. Both the TV and radio versions referenced "low CO2 emissions" while the text advert claimed "Ryanair has the lowest carbon emissions of any major airline". After complaints were made, the airline claimed that the phrase "low CO2 emissions" in the radio and TV ads meant "less than average". The adverts were banned after the Advertising Standards Agency said that customers would interpret the ads' claims to mean that they were contributing less CO2 by travelling with Ryanair rather than other airlines, which could not be proved. 

4. Green product, dirty company

When searching for an eco-friendly product, it’s worth researching how it was made. Whilst a product may be legitimately eco-friendly, the manufacturing process may do more harm to the environment than it would if the product wasn’t manufactured at all e.g lightbulbs which might be made in factories which pollute rivers or trees being cut down to make way for a factory which is manufacturing green products. 

The production of every product or service has an impact on the environment and requires natural resources and also results in waste and harmful emissions. It is easy to let greenwashing mislead you into purchasing a product or service that on the surface looks to be eco-friendly but actually contributes to environmental damage. Just by digging a little deeper, you can check whether the company is in line with your sustainability goals or is sweeping its unethical practices under the rug with a few marketing tricks, intentionally or not.   

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Published on: 10th August 2022

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