Recognizing greenwashing and avoiding marketing traps

More and more brands are labeling their collections as green and sustainable, but it's not uncommon for this to be nothing more than hot air – here's how you can recognize greenwashing

Green Washing recognize Fast Fashion Brand

Author: Ilka Broskamp

More and more brands and companies are labeling their collections as "sustainable", "fair", "sustainable" or "environmentally conscious". All too often, however, there is not much more behind these terms than a simple marketing strategy: greenwashing. But what is greenwashing, how can you recognize it and what are the typical traps?.

What is greenwashing anyway?

Put simply, greenwashing is a marketing strategy by which companies proclaim themselves or their goods to be sustainable, even though this is not true of their business practices. Adorning products with bold buzzwords that suggest sustainability without brands adhering to ethical and environmentally friendly standards is a typical form of greenwashing. This is intended to improve the image and increase sales figures.

It is therefore often not easy for consumers to identify sustainable products as such. Four tips on how to spot greenwashing and actually shop green, read here.

Recognizing greenwashing – this is how it works

1. Look for transparency and check the facts

Very general, woolly formulations are often the first indicators to identify greenwashing. Companies that really care about sustainability set themselves goals that can be proven by numbers or by their own sustainability performance. have it measured. Transparency is an important keyword in this context. Sustainable brands that are seriously committed to the environment and fair labor conditions usually document this on their websites.

Regularly published sustainability reports give consumers detailed insights into the company's activities. What materials are used in production? Are there CO2 offsets?? And are workers paid enough to make a living from the money they earn??

Many brands now publish sustainability or CSR reports. However, there are no defined standards as to what information must be included in the reports. Here, too, the statements often remain vague and not very meaningful. Industry-standard third-party certifications can help objectively verify statements made in reports here.

2. Companies only meet the minimum standards

If you want to recognize greenwashing, it is also worth taking a look at generally applicable guidelines and legal requirements. Some brands claim to be particularly sustainable, for example because they use energy-efficient LED lamps or avoid certain environmentally harmful chemicals. However, these measures are not indications of particularly sustainable actions, but standards whose compliance is required by law.

So when it comes to assessing how sustainable a company is, these facts are entirely irrelevant, as they should apply to all companies. If these standards represent the only efforts to be more sustainable, this is a clear sign of greenwashing.

3. Recognizing greenwashing at Fast Fashions "Conscious Collections"

Sustainable collections as part of the overall assortment give the impression that the first steps towards sustainability have been made. However, these supposedly ecological collections often include only a fraction of the total production and are nothing more than a clever marketing strategy used mainly in the fast fashion sector.

After all, environmentally conscious products are popular with consumers and the "green image" of a collection is quickly transferred to the entire company. On the other hand, a positive influence on the environment is by no means recognizable.

4. Does the company take a holistic approach?

The use of environmentally friendly materials and packaging is an important part of sustainable practices. Efforts should still go well beyond this if a company is serious about minimizing its environmental footprint and taking social responsibility. Avoiding plastic and waste is undeniably a good, important step in counteracting existing environmental problems.

However, if a company's sustainability strategy focuses exclusively on external factors, such as the use of environmentally friendly materials or the needs of consumers, greenwashing can be clearly identified.

A T-shirt made of 100% organic cotton is obviously more marketable than a shirt made of polyester. If the cotton shirt was produced under conditions that do not guarantee fair wages and the safety of the workers, then there is hardly any question of real sustainability here either.

Recognize greenwashing, remain critical and look closely

As consumers become more aware of sustainability, more and more brands are presenting their activities, products and values as environmentally friendly, even when in reality this is anything but true.

Greenwashing is not uncommon, exists in many different forms and is not always recognizable at first glance. It is worthwhile to remain critical and to look carefully before buying, in order not to be deceived by empty marketing promises and striking formulations.

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