Hoola Modern Agency

Is your business engaged in ‘greenwashing’?

The purchasing behaviour of consumers is a critical insight for marketers when developing strategies and campaigns to drive sales for a company’s products and services. So, with the world facing a climate crisis and the threat of increasing biodiversity loss, it shouldn’t come as a shock that consumers’ purchasing behaviour is changing in response to this threat. 

According to a recent study, 8 in 10 global consumers expect companies to ensure that their wooden or paper products do not contribute to deforestation or damage wildlife habitats, and 86% of consumers say they check the product information before buying to make informed choices. (2021 Global Consumer Survey, conducted by the Forest Stewardship Council) 

Unsurprisingly, this has not gone unnoticed by marketers and companies, with buzzwords like ‘sustainability’, and ‘environmentally-friendly products’ finding their way onto product packaging, advertising material, corporate websites etc. Whether these claims are in fact entirely true is not always clear, especially to consumers. 

What is greenwashing?

Simply put, greenwashing is when a company makes false claims (purposefully or inadvertently) about its products and business practices being sustainable and environmentally-friendly for marketing purposes. 

Greenwashing is a deceitful marketing tactic intended to mislead consumers who, now more than ever, want to buy goods and services from genuinely eco-conscious brands. While it’s true that companies can greenwash even when they do have good intentions, the result is the same — consumers’ trust in your brand is broken. 

Green marketing vs. greenwashing — what’s the difference?

There’s a fine line between green marketing and greenwashing. Unlike greenwashing, green marketing is when companies sell products or services based on legitimate environmental positives. 

Green marketing is generally practical, honest, and transparent. It means that a product or service meets specific criteria, e.g., free of toxic materials or ozone-depleting substances, or is recyclable or produced from recycled materials.

However, it’s easy for green marketing to translate to greenwashing in practice when an organisation doesn’t live up to the standards of sustainable business practices. “Eco-friendly,” “organic,” “natural” and “green” are just some of the widely used buzzwords that can be confusing and misleading to consumers. 

The key takeaway here is, be transparent with customers about your company’s practices, and have information readily available to back up your claims. Transparency can bridge the gap between artificial and genuine concern for the environment.

Consumers have deep relationships with brands they trust. Even if you’ve built a successful brand, nothing destroys trust in a business more than consumers realising that they’ve been lied to about something they deeply care about.

It’s about trust.

Even if your business is genuinely working towards sustainable business practices, it’s easy to become overenthusiastic about your environmentally-friendly claims when it comes to marketing your products or speaking about your business practices.  

Thankfully, there are many ways to avoid inadvertent greenwashing when it comes to marketing your products to consumers — If you’d like to discuss how you could incorporate them into your marketing communications and strategy, speak to us.