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How to Avoid Greenwashing in Business

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Did you know 81% of global consumers want brands to be more sustainable? It’s evident that people really want to buy more eco-friendly products, so companies have adjusted and updated their practices to meet customers in the middle. This switch hasn’t always been genuine, though. Some businesses have instead jumped on the eco bandwagon without making their company or products truly green; this is known as greenwashing.

Take a look at how you can, and why you should, avoid greenwashing in business.

Greenwashing, Defined

Greenwashing refers to when companies make false and deceptive assertions about how they offer sustainable products or services. These businesses might use vocabulary like “clean” or “natural” to mislead potential customers — but they don’t provide any evidence that backs up their claims.

There are a couple of reasons why companies choose greenwashing as a business practice. It’s mostly because they can capitalize on the demand for sustainable products and services without substantial changes. Governments have started to pressure companies to be more eco-friendly, so businesses want to appear as ethical as they can.

If you think corporate greenwashing doesn’t happen on a large scale, you should think twice. There are many greenwashing examples from big companies, including Windex, Volkswagen, and Nestle. It’s almost become standard practice for some businesses. Feel free to research more instances so that you can further understand what greenwashing might look like.

Why Greenwashing Causes More Harm Than Good

Greenwashing in business causes harm in different ways. It essentially encourages consumers to buy products or services that are not truly sustainable. These businesses might put their money towards a scheme, not a genuinely eco-friendly cause, which pulls cash from other sustainable brands or products.

These inaccurate claims might allude to a more eco-conscious world, but they lead to more harm than good in the long run. If you falsely state your product or service benefits the planet, you’re in turn contributing to the whole problem of climate change, knowingly.

If your business engages in greenwashing, don’t expect such a tactic to go unnoticed. The public has learned to see through greenwashing as the practice becomes more prevalent. Organizations like the UK’s Competition and Markets Authority aim to vet false advertisements, which further exposes these attempts.

This tactic doesn’t have any long-term benefits. It might convince some consumers to buy products or services — but businesses can’t expect to keep up the ruse forever. These tricks inevitably become exposed, and profits fall as a result.

Although you might feel like a sustainable transition will be pricey, you should note that the advantages largely outweigh the downsides. After all, you can attract more customers, improve your image, and help the planet. It’s not worthwhile to fake that.

Ways to Mitigate Greenwashing

It can be a bit tricky to avoid greenwashing. While you might have genuine intentions, you may inadvertently seem deceptive to specific customers. This dishonesty can surface when your business fails to be transparent and provide facts and details.

There are numerous steps you can take to ensure you’re as open and honest with your audience as possible:

  • Ask yourself whether you can explain the details behind your green product or service.
  • Be sure to have enough data to support your claims.
  • Have a third-party expert evaluate your sustainability measures.
  • Make information on your website clear and straightforward.
  • Detail any green business certifications you have so consumers can learn more.
  • Use minimal packaging.

Remember that you should always employ a metric and measuring system to track your progress. This way, your company can own potential mistakes and improve future endeavors. There needs to be a method to hold yourself accountable.

Keep in mind that laws differ country to country, too. If you have an Australian-based business, for example, you have to align any environmental claims with outlined legislation. If you make sure to follow current rules and regulations, you should mitigate accidental greenwashing.

Educate Consumers About Greenwashing

If you want to offer more sustainably sourced products and services, relaying your intentions to your customer base is a good idea. Be sincere about your journey so they feel involved. Plus, you will inadvertently help them make more informed decisions elsewhere.

Tell your audience to ask you questions. Give updates on social media whenever you achieve a new goal. Release statements regarding how you’ve updated your products and services. This way, you can make your green initiatives a group effort.

This openness will help you avoid greenwashing because you can be completely transparent. Additionally, your customers can figure out how to spot greenwashing from other brands. It’s a win-win for both parties.

It’s All About Being Honest With Consumers

If you want to avoid greenwashing as a business, you need to remain trustworthy. Do your best to gather evidence, stay genuine, and communicate properly. Each claim should be accurate — and your customers shouldn’t have to search far and wide to find that data. Those who care about the environment won’t mind the extra steps.

Related articles:

What is Greenwashing?
Hidden Greenwashing: 3 Tell-Tale Signs
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What is Sustainable Travel?