If the recent deluge of green marketing campaigns is to be believed, we are in the midst of an eco-wave of consumer products. Yes, it’s wonderful that the tide is turning and brands are responding to the demand for sustainable, eco-friendly products. We hope this lasts for years and years to come.
However, we should also be on the lookout for brands who are cutting corners and advertising otherwise. ‘Greenwashing’ is a marketing tactic that is used to portray a brand’s products as environmentally friendly (when they are not) in the hopes of swaying customers in their favour. Luckily, it just takes a little digging to spot the tell-tale signs of greenwashing. Here are four simple ways to educate yourself on a brand’s values.
Understand what is important to you
‘Sustainable,’ ‘eco-friendly,’ ‘eco-conscious’ etc. are often used to make an ad stand out but they may be referring to just a part of the product or process. For instance, a brand that is selling cosmetics will probably use plastic to encase its products but the make-up itself may be free of parabens or other toxic inclusions. The research and formulation may also be cruelty free (not tested on animals). If it is important to you that their products are cruelty free, then this is a brand you can still be happy to buy from.
Similarly, a clothing brand may be following fair-trade practices by paying their workers fair wages and use sustainably sourced fabrics but still deliver in plastic packaging. Other brands may use completely plastic free packaging for most of their products. Read up on the brand or engage with them to find out more. Then you can make an informed decision about buying from brands that align with your values.
Is the brand being transparent about its processes?
It can be extremely difficult to make processes in any business 100% sustainable. There could be financial limitations and it generally is a work in progress. If a brand is being transparent about this and has put in place plans that they’re following to change their processes, it is a sign that they value their customers’ trust. Don’t be shy about writing to them with your concerns and questions, the way they respond will give you a clearer idea about their commitment to sustainability.
What is the brand’s mission and ethics?
Some brands are just offshoots of larger corporations that may not have eco-friendly processes. You can judge the initiative on its own merits or opt for a small, local, green business instead. Local businesses generally have information about the founder, the story of the brand, their aims etc. easily accessible on their website or social media channels.
Does it have certification from third parties?
There are several certifications on various aspects about sustainability that green brands can have. Some examples are the Global Organic Textile Standard, Fair Trade Certification and The Leaping Bunny certification for cruelty free brands. You can also look up the requirements that the certifying body expects to be fulfilled in order to give a brand their stamp. This will give you better insight into the way the brand works.
We get it, all this may sound like a lot of work to do before going on a shopping spree. But just engaging in conversation with brands via email or social media will tell you plenty about their processes. As customers, we do have the power to hold brands accountable for their role in climate action. Plus, the guilt-free shopping makes it all worthwhile. Once you’ve identified a few brands you’d be proud to shop from, you can look at brands that they support to diversify your options. By supporting brands that are doing right by the planet, you’re doing right by the planet.