3/28/2023 - Technology and Innovation

Anyone who wants green that costs you: how to avoid falling into the various shades of Greenwashing

By Camila Affre Carbone

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Imagen de portada

We live in a society where we have become aware, to a greater or lesser extent, that everything we do and stop doing has an impact on the environment. This is why the environmental or sustainability variable enters the balance at the time of choosing to tilt us by more responsible consumption habits.

This awareness makes many companies or brands seek communication strategies and ways to convey their values and their responsibility to the public. But often these formulas are just communicative and have nothing to do with the real practices of companies, which continue to produce products through highly polluting processes, without social responsibility, notion of the impact of their supply chain or the waste they generate. This practice is known asgreenwashing.

Its literal meaning in Spanish is “greenwash”. It applies to communication practices that appeal to the environmental variable to wash the image of something or someone.

Greenwashing is a practice or strategy that employs some companies, which consists of showing audiences that are respectful of the environment in the presentation of their products or services. This strategy, after all, is a mistake because, in the background, neither processes are respectful of the environment, nor the products or services they offer to their public.

It is a way of selling to the public a false corporate social responsibility that is never seen in the policies or culture of the company, nor in this product or service that are selling to me as such.

Basically, it is to make it seem that what you see is doing something to protect the environment, which is exaggerated or deceptive, because it has no sustenance that validates this action.

How do I avoid falling into the greenwashing traps?

Of course, if, as a consumer, you want to choose products with less environmental impact, you will not be very happy to know that much of what circulates on the market claims to be more “green” than it really is. Therefore it is crucial to know that there is this practice to use it as a tool to make informed decisions and to know how to differentiate when each case is presented and ultimately make an informed decision, whatever that decision is.

1) Use of exaggerated or excessive terms, concepts and characteristics

Pay attention to the terms cliché as “sustainable”, “ecological”, “bio”, “green”, “biodegradable”, “natural”, “organic”. They are warning signs, since in many cases they are used indiscriminately, because they sound well, but they are rarely accompanied by real foundations. The same when exaggerated characteristics are highlighted, too good to be real, like “zero emissions”, “fact 100% recycled materials”. Above all, when these claims are from companies associated with fossil fuels, plastics, fast-fashion and other industries that we know are far from selling sustainable products.

In many cases, there are standardized methods to support quantitatively and qualitatively what is claimed with mere terms and phrases, which brings us to the following point.

2) Accreditation Certifications and Seals

Many organizations offer certifications and accreditative seals for products and companies that are an effective tool against greenwashing, as they allow to independently check whether a product meets certain criteria and is actually fulfilling the practices and claims it promises. Examples as Business System B, Sello “Organic Argentina”, Labeling Energy Efficiency, the FSC seal, Leaping Bunny certification, Energy Star, etc.

(3) Colors and Images

Similar to the first point, put special attention to the use of trilled colors or images to generate the sense of care of the environment. We do not fall into “green” marketing, that is, by simply seeing this color and elements of nature as leaves and arbols our subconscious is triggered to make us believe that in the company certain sustainability values prevail.

4) Transfer of liability

The other important network-flag is what is known as "greenshifting", the practice of transferring the blame from environmental problems to the consumer, by making them feel responsible for taking measures to solve them instead of taking responsibility and taking effective measures to reduce their environmental impact. This practice is recurrent mainly in industries that intrinsically impact negatively on the environment. Examples such as electronic product companies include legends in their products so that the consumer recycles at the end of life rather than providing repair alternatives, parts accessibility, technical service, improve their processes to delay obsolescence and ultimately propose own, convenient and affordable recycling programs.

To Finish

In conclusion, it is true that more and more consumers are looking for products with less impact, and it is understandable that companies want to take advantage of this trend to improve their image and increase their sales. However, it is important that we know how to recognize when it comes to true sustainable practices and when it comes to greenwashing.

The key is that we are very attentive to the communications of products, companies and brands that say they are “ecological”. Often the green is only in the speech, and in fact invest more in publishing “being green” that in implementing really ecological practices.

We need to question what is behind these “green” communications and look with a critical eye. Dudemos, let's look, investigate, ask to finally make informed decisions and be responsible consumers.

By Camila Affre Carbone

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camila affre carbone

Camila Affre Carbone

I am a Bachelor of Environmental Sciences and in Hygiene and Security (USAL), promoter of the Sustainable Development Goals, with experience in industrial, commercial and service provision. Passed by Sustainability, contributing to build a better world.

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