Today is a day to celebrate environmental protection.
“Where does this day come from?” you may ask. Well, in 1970, 20 million Americans gathered in a massive protest pushing for better protection of the environment. This protest literally took place nationwide and it has left a mark ever since.
Today, Earth day is celebrated globally, and when asked the question, ‘What is earth day?’ the answer is this:
A day we celebrate humanity’s movement towards a greener, more sustainable future that protects and supports every living thing on earth.
While this is generally great news, our capitalist society found a way to use this to its advantage, twist it around and make it all about making money.
By greenwashing and playing a game of make believe with its consumers.
What is greenwashing?
Greenwashing is the term used when a corporation or company decides to spend more time (and money) on marketing themselves to look eco-conscious and environmentally friendly, instead of actually doing the work to minimise their environmental impact.
It is literally a marketing and advertising technique. It’s a dishonest practice used to mislead consumers who would rather pay for goods and services from environmentally conscious brands.
While advertising regulators do exist, there’s actually no universally accepted definition of what ‘sustainable’, ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘ethical’ actually means, which consequently gives the chance for sneaky brands to wave their ‘green’ flag and push the narrative that they’re “doing their part in saving the planet” (often with higher price-tags) without actually taking any steps in making better choices.
Why is this happening?
Newsflash – labelling your company as ‘socially conscious’ in any way possible sells. McKinsey found that Gen Z (people born between 1995 and 2010) are more likely to spend money on companies or brands that claim to be ethical.
How can you spot greenwashing?
Look out for words that companies sprinkle like confetti to seem ‘greener’ – some examples include:
- Eco-friendly -Tells you that this is good for the environment – but how can this be verified? Often, it means nothing.
- Vegan leather – Cruelty free and vegan means good in our minds – but remember that vegan leather is faux leather and this is plastic.
- “Made with 100% natural cotton” – this only means that the cotton is natural – but you don’t know anything else about the production of this garment you may be buying.
- “Made of recycled materials” – in clothes, this means that the microplastics are still there and when we wash any ‘recycled’ garment it will shed microplastics into our water streams. Additionally, once we’ve worn it to our heart’s content and no longer have use of it, we have to discard of it, which is tricky because recycling is not that easy.
How do you know a company is greenwashing?
- Is the company transparent? Can you see facts, figures and a clear supply chain on the company’s website?
- Look past green logos and sugar-coated language – anyone can look ‘green’ but are they really? What’s the company history?
- Who is making the products? Social sustainability should always be on top of your concerns when a company claims to be ethical. A fast fashion brand, for example, can never be fundamentally good if they don’t pay their garment workers fairly. The most infamous fashion company that has been greenwashing for years is H&M with their ‘conscious’ lines. Don’t fall for it. In addition to that, any company that mass produces is not environmentally good as more often than not, they produce more stock than they sell.
- Big VS Small – Most massive corporations do hardly any good for the planet. When you can, shop small. This minimises carbon footprint and supports people who will jump up and down when you place an order, instead of a multi-million-pound company to whom you’re only a number.
- Ask questions! Question brands, hold them accountable. Every small step helps us to make sure that even the big corporations make changes. With the power of social media, we can press for change and push to make improvements. Thanks to the PayUp scheme for example, many fast fashion companies have started paying up all the garment workers they ignored – all because of their consumers reaching out to them via twitter/Instagram and making a stand against their shady practices.