With concern about environmental issues growing, more people are looking for sustainable and eco-friendly products. Unfortunately, they’re sometimes running into a practice called “greenwashing.”

A feature image for a blog post about why corporate greenwashing is bad.

So, what is it, and why is greenwashing bad?

In this post, we’ll explain what corporate greenwashing is, the consequences, and what it means for consumers.

The good news? It’s becoming less common as consumers become savvier about it and regulators enforce labeling.

What Is Corporate Greenwashing?

Corporate greenwashing occurs when a company wants to get on the eco-friendly bandwagon without doing the work, so they can sell more products to more people.

Words Like “Pure” and “Natural”

Always on the lookout for a profitable marketing angle, some companies will use words like “pure” or “natural” to make their product sound like it’s good for the environment or sustainable.

Unfortunately, in some cases, it’s just a marketing ploy.

Dig Deeper

And, when you dig deeper, you discover that the product is not manufactured in a sustainable way, nor is it eco-friendly in itself, even though it may indeed have some natural ingredients or components.

Be Aware of Imaging

Companies will sometimes use natural components in their imaging to give the illusion of an eco-friendly product. For example, the item is photographed in a natural setting outdoors or there are bamboo leaves next to it.

Supporting Causes

Another practice to watch out for is when a company supports environmental or community causes or organizations, while they don’t follow sustainable practices themselves.

Greenwashing Is Misleading

Products have been greenwashed when they are labeled or presented in such a way as to mislead consumers and encourage them to buy under the impression that the item is environmentally-friendly when it isn’t the case.

Next, we’ll look at the consequences of this practice.

The Consequences of Greenwashing

The obvious negative effect of greenwashing is what it’s doing to the environment. When companies make false or exaggerated claims of being eco-friendly, and people buy the products, they may mistakenly do more harm to the planet’s resources.

Companies Hurt Themselves

And, companies can also harm themselves. If their false or misleading claims are exposed, they may appear dishonest to consumers, which will cost them business and profits.

Consumers Care

Consumers care more about environmental practices than ever before and are becoming less tolerant of companies that don’t consider the consequences of their practices and manufacturing.

Next, we’ll look at what greenwashing means for you as a consumer.

Consumers and Greenwashing

As a consumer, you need to be on the lookout for greenwashing. If you want to stick to buying and using sustainable products and services, do your homework and make sure it’s what you’re getting.

Take Time to Check

It’s well worth the extra time it takes to check out whether a company lives up to its claims of being eco-friendly. Don’t just take the marketing images and copywriting at face value.

Consumers Demand More

Fortunately, consumers know more about being environmentally-friendly and demand more from corporations these days.

Eco-Friendly Labels

Plus, there are more and more organizations enforcing regulations around labeling. Some examples are GOTS and OEKO-TEX for textiles.

For example, you could look for those labels if you were purchasing something with fabric like a weighted blanket or mattress here in Canada.

In Canada

In Canada, you can find many eco-friendly labels for a large variety of products and manufacturers. Check out the information on the government page for environmental labels and claims.

One company in Canada that does not use greenwashing and is truly eco-friendly in its practices is Tru Earth. They sell eco-friendly laundry detergent and other household and personal products.

Greenwashing is a common practice among corporations looking to influence the buying decisions of consumers. Hopefully, one day soon, it will be a thing of the past as people become more aware and demand more sustainable practices and regulations.

12 thoughts on “Why Is Greenwashing Bad?”

  1. There are a number of scam artists and ‘bad’ firms which are running around the net making fraudulent claims to cajole and hoodwink customers into buying. I have heard about greenwashing but before this article, I had a good impression of it based on the media hype. I did not realize that it was a way to falsely promote eco-friendly products without the product actually being eco-friendly. Your article has made me more vigilant and informed. I now recognize that I should look at the language, try to understand the supply chain and nationally accredited eco-friendly labeling. Thank you for this very informative piece.

    1. Yes, greenwashing makes things more complicated. You’re right that it’s necessary to do our homework and research to find the products and services that are truly better for the environment.

  2. I haven’t been deceived yet with an “eco-friendly” product. Or I think I haven’t been deceived, LOL. 

    But I know companies can be and they tend to be misleading with their claims. So, I know that it will affect them if they get publicly exposed. But the thing is that probably they usually don’t get exposed.

    1. Actually, regulations seem to be getting stricter and there appears to be more awareness of greenwashing practices as the public becomes more educated. Hopefully, getting duped by companies that want you to believe they’re eco-friendlier than they truly are will become a thing of the past, giving the environment a better chance to heal and thrive.

  3. This was a very informative article. I had never really thought about advertising claims and what it takes to back them up. I had just assumed that companies didn’t want to get in trouble for false advertising and so would police themselves. I guess that was naive of me. I will be more aware in the future. It’s interesting to me how things are different in Canada, too, because of different laws and the availability of different products. An eye-opening piece!

    1. Yes, companies have to be responsible for the claims they make. We’re glad you found the post informative and have more information about what to watch for when choosing products and services that are better for the health of the planet.

  4. Yep. They put a little green leaf on the label and expect everyone to believe they’re “green.”  Anyone who cares about the environment can easily call them out on their bogus, but I bet a lot of people miss it.  It’s very sad that so many corporations put making a buck and cutting corners over spending a little extra dough on their packaging/product makeup to preserve the planet.  It’s extremely difficult (close to impossible) for consumers to buy truly eco-friendly products.  You have to do a lot of extra legwork and spending.

    1. Yes, you’ve made good points here. Fortunately, regulations are becoming stricter and consumers savvier. Hopefully the needed changes will happen in time to preserve the environment.

  5. I had never heard of the term greenwashing before. But I know companies do it. I always look at the label and see what the ingredients are, especially when I’m looking for eco-friendly products that are better for the environment. I always do my research on a product first, especially supplements to see what they put in the products, where they are made etc.

    1. Yes, it’s always a good idea to do research and find out what you can about a product. Then, you’ll have a better idea of what effect it might have on your health and the environment. I’m glad to hear you do this.

  6. Hello Stella, this was a very interesting and informative article for me. I have never heard of greenwashing until a few days ago when someone told me it’s a misleading campaign. That’s only when I started my research as I really would like to participate in saving our planet. After reading your article I feel like I was tricked all the time by certain companies. Thanks for educating me on how to recognize and differentiate eco-friendly from greenwashing products. 

    1. Yes, even with products that claim to be eco-friendly, it’s always a case of “buyer beware.” And, it’s always a good idea to do some research on what a company is really offering.

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