Beware of Greenwashing!

Commercialisation of green products is a trend. As we are heading to a generation that puts climate change and sustainability as one of the major concerns, there are more and more companies and brands that are also trying to develop and shift their operation style to fulfil the market’s need and demand. But do you really think they are environmentally friendly? Or it is just another marketing strategy?

This is what we called as Greenwashing when an organisation or company is trying to convey a false impression to the public by providing misleading information or claims to make them or their products sound eco-friendlier. Nonetheless, this is one of the unwanted phenomena that we would like to see for the environment. So please beware of the tricks and let’s not fall for the scam. Here are 4 Greenwashing styles that are common and everyone should be aware of:

1. Misleading labels as recyclable / biodegradable / eco-friendly

Is the item recyclable with just a recyclable label on it? Identify the materials before you put anything into the recycle bins as some items might be a mixture of materials and cannot be recycled as a whole. For example, the take-away paper lunch box is a combination of a wax layer inside and paper outside, therefore it is non-recyclable though some might label it as eco-friendly packaging.

2. Using high % of recyclable material / natural ingredients

Are you using any natural products? How much is the percentage of natural element in the product you use? The same goes for recycled material used in manufacturing another new product such as recycled paper or plastic bottles as claimed by the companies. It might be true that their products contain recycled content, but probably not as high percentage as they labeled.

3. Energy saying benefits / low carbon footprint claims

Carbon footprint is important data for big companies who are competitive in order to market their products and ideology to the consumers. With energy-saving or low carbon emission as the highlight, companies are able to get more attention and more acceptable as they are taking the lead to reduce climate change impacts. However, the majority of us are not professionals who understand how energy or carbon data works, therefore do not fully believe what companies tell you unless it is certified as carbon neutral or energy-saving by official agencies such as SIRIM, SEDA, or MGBC (and etc). Double check your products and do some research before any green product purchase.

4. Rebranding / Media effects / Positive environmental attributes

In order to respond to environmental issues such as pollution and climate change, Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) is gaining importance among business leaders. Many companies and corporates are trying to fulfill the need of CSR by helping the needy and also environmental organisations to complete their giving back responsibility. However, a real sustainable company will keep a continuous effort to invest in education and proper R&D work to make sure their products are not going to affect the environment. Therefore, a short-term or campaign-style of green marketing plan with extra publicity is more likely a greenwashing trick so that the public and consumers are aware of their so-called green initiatives. This also includes company rebranding which would give the consumers a new impression and also releasing press statements to get media coverage when the companies conduct any green activities such as beach clean-up or tree planting to help save the environment.

In a conclusion, actions always speak louder than words. Let’s be a smart consumer and do not let the greenwashing ideas slow down our green movement in making a change. We need to take it seriously and stop the greenwashing from growing wild in our community.