Greenwashing: Know it When You See It 

So, you’ve probably heard of greenwashing? 

Of course, you have. It isn’t a new phenomenon! 

The term greenwashing goes back to the 1980s— American Environmentalist, Jay Westerveld, coined it to ‘designate’ brands glorifying the notion of duping consumers with false ethical claims

Even if you don’t consider yourself to be an environmentalist, at the very least you probably have an idea of what it means. Being familiar with the term is great, but the more important question is whether you know how to spot greenwashing?

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According to one study, among global consumers, 81% believe that businesses should contribute to the environment by ending deceiving marketing moves like greenwashing. Now the question is, are you in the 81% lot? Are you aware of the horrific environmental impacts of greenwashing? 

That’s okay, don’t feel bad if you are not there yet because you are not alone— another study revealed that the perception of customers is unaffected by deceptive labels despite their skepticism against greenwashing. The reason? The product promises are hollow, us but customer reactions remain unchanged owing to the lack of awareness. 

It is obvious that greenwashing needs to hit the road; a troubling trend of crafty marketers preying on the gullibility and naivety of the consumers. 

Relative to the harmful effects of greenwashing, in this article, we will be discussing—- 

How to spot greenwashing? 

The impact of greenwashing on consumers and the brand in question. 

And how to be responsible consumers and changemakers. 

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How To Spot Greenwashing: The Red Flags

If you come across products with some potentially dubious claims, you can usually tell it has been greenwashed. Given the growing sensation of ‘green‘ brands on a global scale, many organizations have begun employing strategies that masquerade their products as eco-friendly — simply to tone with the ‘green’ demands. But according to 2007 research by TerraChoice on green marketing in North America, Australia, and the United Kingdom, things did not look very green. Despite the thousands of brands claiming sustainability labels, the truth was startling and alarming. 98% of the green claims fell under ‘7 Sins of Greenwashing’ by TerraChoice.

With that being said, it would be a sweet dream if brands upheld the truth— but until that time comes, it is our responsibility as consumers to fight the flagrant greenwashing by big brands. So, here are some pointers on how to spot greenwashing and save yourself from an eco-friendly scam. 

Sounding Overly Ambitious

Are the green assertions of the brand appearing to be overly zealous? If the presentation sounds theatrically exaggerated, it probably is. Two words- stay away! 

All Things Green Are Not ‘Green’ 

Do not let the color or the word green deceive you. Brands take advantage of people’s intuitive notion that green means ethical, safe, healthful, or sustainable. Examine the product and the label; pick up a similar product that doesn’t have a “green” label and compare the differences/ similarities in the material source, manufacturing process, certifications, and related. 

The Substantive Claims

Keep an eye out for popular green terms like “zero waste,” “organic,” “eco-friendly,” “sustainable” “all-natural.” Check the label— the label should state how the brand fulfills these claims (if the claims are true). Some brands lie and some brands tell the truth, but it is not a risk for you to entertain. 

The Percentage Claim 

As a conscious consumer, question assertions that mention “made with 50% more (or any other number) recycled material than before.” What is that before? 50% more than what? And the remaining 50%? Consider red flags if the brand has no explanation in favor of their claim. It’s undoubtedly rubbish if a brand’s marketing claims can’t be supported by specific information, or if the assertions are ambiguous, imprecise, and incoherent.

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Reactionary Green Policies 

Organizations that incorporate sustainability policies in response to market trends are not offering green items to improve the planet – FACT. They are only doing it to increase profits by luring more customers. If you were to do your research, chances are more likely than not, that the company jumped the green bandwagon just because it’s a trend. Be sure to do your research and investigate their claims. 

Certifications

There are verified organizations set in place to offer an unbiased evaluation and standard upon industries like fashion and textile. Such organizations assign grades to brand labels based on the credibility of their claims. It helps the consumers to get a better evaluation of the labels, to avoid being a victim of greenwashing. Before you give away your hard earned dollar, verify if the brand is certified by standards like Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)Fair Trade, B Corporation, and Fairtrade. These certifications are an indication that the products of a brand demonstrate as environmentally preferable. 

 

The Pressing Issues of Greenwashing

Not only is Greenwashing a disturbing crime against the environment, but it is also a concern for sustainable brands and consumers. 

Why? 

The unethical conduct of greenwashing generates a suspicious distrust between the concerned brands and their customers. This adversely impacts the brands that are truly devoted to the principles of sustainability— unfairly dragged through the mud, penalized for the sins of the brands unfaithful to eco-friendly obligations. 

Eventually, the consumers refuse to believe all claims, transparency, sustainability, or even certification proofs. As a result, it is becoming even more challenging to bring about the potential eco-reforms in the industry.

A threatened profit & reputation is the ultimate price that every sustainable brand is paying for the likes of companies that practice greenwashing. And what further adds to the disaster is that greenwashing affects not only the ecological and product perceptions but also the satisfaction of the consumers. 

Terra Thread: Ensuring Transparency, Traceability, & Equitability

As you are probably aware, certain honest and notable brands genuinely offer eco-friendly items Such as sustainable backpacks. They operate openly and transparently; plus the government-supported standards and industry-recognized credentials also speak for the brand’s credibility. 

“Helping to expand the organic cotton industry in India, and to diminish the prominence of conventional cotton farming, remains the core of what we do,” says Vik Giri, Founder of Gallant International Inc. and Terra Thread. Terra Thread uses rain-fed Fairtrade organic cotton which is grown in pesticide-free fields and processed in accordance with the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS). This ensures the safety, health and general well-being of cotton producers and the surrounding environment, which is Terra Thread’s number one priority. With the practices for conventional cotton farming being one of the most chemically intensive, we are setting a higher and better standard for textile and apparel brands everywhere. Vik states, “Cotton farms in India are more saturated with toxic chemicals than any other kind of agriculture in the world. The practice destroys soil and kills many farmers. By opening markets for organic cotton, we give farmers the means they need to break free from chemical agriculture.”

Terra Thread wants to normalize fair and responsible business by leading with example. All our bags are produced in a certified Fair Trade Factory which operates on principles to benefit the interests of workers and protect the environment. These principles include the socio-economic advancement of people and active conservation and protection of the planet. This certification forms part of our brand’s commitment towards having a fully traceable and transparent supply chain which puts people and the planet first. 

Terra Thread takes full social and environmental responsibility for its business. By supporting renewable energy and reforestation projects, we offer our customers carbon neutral backpacks and bags. Additionally, Terra Thread supports Feeding America’s network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs to help provide nutritious food to children, families, and seniors in the US.

Our planet is amid a calamity of dangers— the climate and environmental crisis are affecting millions of people and rapidly deteriorating the environment. And we are unlikely to succeed unless we recognize the faults of our current practices, which is why Terra Thread commits to green conducts and promote only sustainable, environmental-friendly practices and materials.

Responsible Shoppers/ Changemakers 

An unwitting purchase of products that are culpable of greenwashing equals empowering the large, irresponsible brands to continue their greenwashing scam. So, question where you invest your money; question if your choices are enabling the unethical players of the industry.

We can leave things as it is and lose everything, or we can undertake transformative measures that will save lives and preserve our dying planet— this is as straightforward and as black and white as it gets! 

As consumers, it is time for you and me to take a stand. 

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