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Greenwashing Exposed: 5 Ways Companies Can Avoid False ‘Eco-Friendly’ Marketing

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July 21, 2023
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6 minutes
Experienced copywriter who spends a lot of money at restaurants and regrets it later.
Back in the day, when there was no internet and news was controlled by a handful of companies, it was easier to fool customers. In those days, a company could dump gallons of chemical waste into the environment but still portray itself as an ‘eco-friendly’ company.

Fast forward to the present day, billions of people have access to online information. And how can we forget social media? One tweet from a 20-year-old can turn a company’s misleading ‘environment-friendly’ ad campaign to dust, and an HD YouTube video can reveal how ‘green’ a company really is. That’s right. In this day and age, greenwashing doesn’t work like it used to before.

So, what exactly is greenwashing, and why should companies stay away from it? Let’s find out.

What Is Greenwashing?

Ever heard of this saying: “All that glitters is not gold”? It means that things or even companies that look very attractive from the outside may not be all that good from the inside. Let’s dig deeper.

You may have noticed the ‘eco-friendly’ trend these days. Many companies are trying hard to prove how concerned they are about the environment. Well, maybe a lot of them are taking genuine steps to reduce waste and carbon footprint—but there are many companies that are just marketing themselves as eco-friendly even when they are not. This very act of misleading consumers into thinking that a company is eco-friendly is called greenwashing.

To understand this better, let’s discuss some examples.

Examples of greenwashing

5 Examples of greenwashing

  • Misleading labels: You may see labels like ‘100% natural’, ‘eco-friendly’, ‘sustainably sourced’, and ‘earth friendly’ on the packaging. Well, don’t always believe it, especially if you’re buying something online from a non-renowned brand.
  • Misleading packaging: Companies may use green color or Earth-tone colors like brown and beige to appear more eco-friendly. But even if a company gives green color to its plastic packaging, it’s still plastic. So, be smart and don’t fall for this greenwashing tactic.
  • Distracting information: It’s not uncommon these days to read ‘100% recyclable’ or ‘ethically sourced’ on products. But sometimes, if you do some more research, you may find out that the company may just be diverting attention from more significant issues. For example, even if their packaging is made from recycled material, their production facility may be dumping a lot of toxic waste into a local river.
  • Publicity stunts: Staged public relations stunts are also very common. So, just because an organization plants 200 trees and calls newspaper outlets to take their pictures doesn’t mean they really care about the environment. Sometimes, it may only be a strategy to compensate for the fact that they’re polluting the environment more than others.
  • No transparency: Let’s suppose that you’re trying to find out whether or not a product is eco-friendly. But when you read the product description or scroll through the company’s website, you don’t find much information. Well, then, chances are, it may not be as eco-friendly as you think.


    • Greenwashing refers to the act of purposely misleading consumers into believing a company is eco-friendly when it may not be the case. This is generally done through marketing and promotion.
    • Some tactics of greenwashing include misleading labels, packaging, distracting information, and publicity stunts.
    • To avoid greenwashing, organizations should be open about their sustainability initiatives and acknowledge areas for improvement.
    • Third-party certifications from reputable organizations, like Energy Star and FSC, can validate a company's eco-friendly claims.
    • Sustainability consultants can help companies develop effective strategies, embrace circular economy practices, and establish corporate social responsibility standards.

    How Companies Can Avoid False Eco-Friendly Marketing

    Now that you know what greenwashing is, let’s understand how you, as a business owner, can create a more authentic and genuine brand. This is important because consumers are smart and they have access to more information than ever. Meaning that greenwashing can be called out—just look it up on Google and you’ll see how consumers spotted misleading eco-friendly claims.

    Alright, so let’s discuss how to make genuine eco-friendly declarations and win customers’ long-lasting trust.

    1. Be transparent and open about your company’s sustainability initiatives

    It’s okay if your company hasn’t managed to figure out a way to reduce its carbon footprint right now. It’s acceptable if the waste produced by your factories is larger than expected. It’s believable if you say that you’re working on making your supply chain more sustainable. But, what may not be okay for customers is misleading claims and greenwashing. Instead, keep it accurate and be truthful.

    Take Apple as an example. The tech giant has committed to be 100% carbon neutral for its supply chain and products by 2030. This means that they’re acknowledging that they’re not perfect, but they’re working towards it. And that’s way better than lying and greenwashing, isn’t it?

    2. Substantiate ‘eco-friendly’ claims with real action

    When an organization makes claims of being sustainable without supporting evidence, it can lead to skepticism and mistrust among consumers. So, just empty statements may not deliver the right message, but actions will.

    You could work on reducing greenhouse emissions, conserving water, minimizing waste generation, or adopting sustainable sourcing and production practices. To really earn customers’ trust and demonstrate your commitment to environmental stewardship, you can take any of the aforementioned actions. And when you do, feel free to publicize it as much as possible—it won’t be considered greenwashing because it’s authentic.

    3. Get third-party certifications

    Yes, third-party certifications are way more trustworthy than exaggerated claims made by a company itself. Anybody can say that their company is eco-friendly or that they source their raw materials ethically. However, a stamp from a reputable and renowned third party is the only way to demonstrate real authenticity.

    For example, one such certification is the Energy Star certification, which is awarded to companies that have implemented energy-efficient practices and products. Now, if you go to Energy Star’s website and look for particular products, let’s say an air conditioner, you’ll find names of brands that have proper certifications. Furthermore, it’s a government website. So, if you can get your product listed on it, there’ll be no doubt about the authenticity of your eco-friendly claims.

    Similarly, there are many other third-party certifications that you could strive for. For instance, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) certification, which certifies that a company’s wood and paper products come from responsibly managed forests.

    4. Avoid using vague language

    Instead of saying “We’re an eco-friendly company”, you should probably explain how your company, products, and practices are eco-friendly. For instance, if a company sells packaged milk, it could mention that 100% of its packaging material is recyclable. Another example could be a coffee chain that sources its coffee beans from South America. They could mention how exactly all the farmers are treated well by the company.

    Starbucks, one of the most famous coffee chains in the world, explains its ethical sourcing approach in detail on its website. They even have a name for it: Coffee and Farmer Equity (C.A.F.E.) Practices. The company sources coffee from more than 400,000 farmers. So, it’s essential that people know how these workers are treated. While this doesn’t directly relate to being eco-friendly, it is a great example of how to articulate your eco-friendly strategy.

    5. Hire sustainability consultants

    If you’ve read this article so far, you may be wondering how companies like Apple and Starbucks can come up with such awesome eco-friendly marketing strategies. Well, here’s a little secret: they likely have sustainability consultants working for them. And the good news is, you can hire them, too.

    Here’s a list of different types of sustainability consultants:

    • Sustainability strategy consultants: Let experienced consultants handle your organization's sustainability concerns and create effective sustainability strategies.
    • Circular-economy experts: These experts can help you improve resource efficiency and embrace circular economy practices.
    • Corporate social responsibility consultants: Establish new standards for corporate social responsibility and truly make a positive impact. And then, advertise it—it won’t be considered greenwashing because there’s genuine effort.
    • Product carbon footprint consultants: You can gain transparency on your products' carbon impact with the help of dedicated consultants. This could be the first step if you really want to be a green company.

    So, you want to work with these consultants? In that case, we can help.

    Here at Consultport, you can easily access a pool of trusted sustainability experts with diverse specializations. All our consultants have worked with top firms and blue-chip companies, so you’ll work with the best.

    If that sounds interesting, get in touch now.