Have you ever been greenwashed? Not sure? Think of it this way… have you ever been tricked into something by someone you thought you could trust?
But you were lied to?
Then, when the truth was revealed, your face turned red, your anger burned hot, and your ego sought revenge.
Or maybe you were embarrassed, ashamed, and felt like a victim.
Quite possibly, you shrank down and pretended as if nothing happened so as not to cause a scene or compromise the relationship.
Regardless of the outcome, getting duped or, worse yet, manipulated is never okay. No matter your age, race, religion, or place of origin, there is a common denominator among humans that should be universal. This common denominator is truth.
Honesty is key. Taken to the next level, you will find full disclosure. But how many companies truly provide complete transparency?
Anyone who knows me will likely agree that I often over-explain and over share. It took me nearly forty years to learn that this was not normal. But it’s okay. In fact, I am thankful to be unique.
Honesty, though, in my humble opinion, should be a standard expectation. I often wonder why there are not more out there who shine with the truth.
You might think to yourself, “There are. I am one.” That’s great, and I am so glad you are here. And I don’t doubt there are more who honor the truth as we do. But my question is:
Are there enough of us?
What does all of this have to do with greenwashing?
Greenwashing is when a company leads you to believe it is eco-conscious in its business practices, while in actuality, it’s not. The company produces and/or manufactures products in unethical, immoral, or inhumane ways. We are led to believe the best about someone or something, but important factors are still hidden and untold. Sadly, “greenwashing” is used more frequently to call out unethical and unsustainable practices.
Companies try to mask the harm they create by producing mass widgets and contraptions for our consumption. They do this by using clever marketing schemes or endearing diversion tactics, like give-back campaigns, to keep us from seeing the big picture.
For example, a widely known brand made significant contributions to a foundation for child labor. At the same time, they also paid children less than $1 a day in third-world countries to harvest natural resources for their products. These wages were not only unfair, but the working conditions were unsafe.
Often, the larger the business, the harder it is to know everything about them. Even when some companies try to do better over time, some carry so much shame for all the skeletons in the closet that they may never fully evolve into a full-disclosure mentality.
Now, some more prominent brands can be trusted to make ethical choices and execute all practices based on what is best for the greater good. By no means am I saying that all big business is bad business. Instead, I am saying that it is becoming more and more challenging to know who to trust.
Greenwashing is real. We are often sold on it, so these companies can have our money. Sadly, so much of it boils down to money.
Vote with Your Dollar
Have you ever heard the phrase, “We vote with our dollars?” The truth in this statement cuts to the chase. I believe it wholeheartedly. Cullen Schwarz is the founder of Done Good, an eCommerce shopping site for consumers to purchase everyday products made by eco-responsible and sustainable brands. He shares on his website some fantastic information, including the fact that Americans give close to $400 billion in charity a year while spending $130 trillion on everyday items. So our hard-earned money carries with it a loud voice.
How to Avoid Greenwashing
So, how do you know if a company is greenwashing?
1) If it is too good to be true, trust your instincts and dig a little deeper. Check out the company’s website and search for contradictions in its products and mission statements. Does the mission align with the services and products offered? Do a Google search on the company’s reputation or pay attention to its products’ ingredients and production practices. Environmental Working Group’s website is another easy place to start.
2) What does sustainability mean to the company you want to buy from? Your definition may differ from the company’s. Considering your dollars as voting ballots, consider what the company stands for and ask yourself if its values align with yours. If not, is the product you want or need worth putting your money into the hands of someone practicing something that goes against what you believe in?
3) Some non-profit organizations and government entities have established guidelines to help consumers know who to trust. Mind you, just because a company is not certified does not mean it cannot be trusted. Certifications can be costly, as many companies must hire third-party businesses for inspection and reporting, sometimes quarterly or annually. Some certificates also carry more weight than others, depending on the industry and country of origin. Some examples of certifications to look for are Oeko-Tex, BCorp, Fairtrade, GOTS, LEED, and MadeSafe.
At the end of the day, you, as the consumer, have purchasing power. You work hard for your money. I would love to see you make the companies you buy from work more challenging to do the right thing. It’s all up to you.
So, how will you vote?