Thoughts — 31 Mar 2021
By Cara Van Rhyn

The Difference Between Green Marketing and Greenwashing

by Cara Van Rhyn

In an age where sustainability sells, it’s more important than ever to distinguish between green marketing and greenwashing. As environmental concerns grow and priorities change, so to do our shopping habits. According to a recent Good Housekeeping survey, only 2% of respondents aren’t concerned with making ‘green’ shopping choices. However, making these decisions has become an increasingly murky guessing game as a result of greenwashing.

Greenwashing is a phenomenon that has been around since the 80s but has rapidly become more common place over recent years. In essence, greenwashing is when a company, or even an individual, spends more time promoting their ‘green’ credentials than actually taking steps to be green. It can be unintentional, a result of lack of knowledge on sustainability, but more often than not it is intentionally done to mislead consumers. In either scenario, greenwashing has detrimental effects on the planet.

Some commonplace claims that are red flags for greenwashing include things like “clean”, “chemical-free” and “biodegradable”. The beauty industry is rife with these phrases and stocked with brands touting claims such as “natural”, when in reality phrases like this are incredibly hard to substantiate.

Of course, there are many brands who are environmentally friendly and take tangible steps to be green, so how do they market this without being tarred with the greenwashing brush?

 

  • Official certifications such as Fairtrade, B-Corp and Made Safe are great ways to distinguish between a brand with false claims and one who is actually making a positive change.

 

  • Transparency is another way to spot a genuinely green brand. A recent Accenture study revealed that 66% of consumers think transparency is one of the most attractive qualities in a brand. This includes providing information about where a product’s raw materials were sourced, how employees are treated at every step of the production journey and what the brand cares about beyond turning a profit.

 

  • Authenticity is an important issue to 89% of consumers, according to Stackla, so your green efforts shouldn’t be promoted in a one-off marketing campaign, they should be part of your brand’s DNA.

 

By taking steps to ensure your brand’s sustainable initiatives are marketed in a genuine way, you can increase consumer trust. After all, being green is no longer a ‘nice to have’, but an essential part of any 21st century business.