In recent years, sustainability and environmental consciousness have become a prominent concern for both consumers and businesses. As a result, many companies are adopting "green" practices and products to attract environmentally conscious customers.
However, in their eagerness to capitalise on this growing market, some businesses resort to greenwashing—a deceptive marketing tactic that misleads consumers about the true environmental impact of their products or services. In this article, we will explore how you can market your green business effectively while avoiding the pitfalls of greenwashing.
According to the recent report released by The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC), 57% of 247 businesses studied, are identified as making concerning claims to greenwashing. Most of them are concerning as they are using vague or unclear environmental claims, not providing sufficient evidence for their claims, setting environmental goals without clear plans, and confusingly using third-party certifications.
This is a concern as it may mislead the consumers and provide false information. The ACCC mentioned that they will take appropriate measures against businesses identified as greenwashing. Depending on the circumstances, this may lead to an administrative resolution, issuing an infringement notice, or legal proceedings.
How to Not Be Considered Greenwashing
- Avoid vague and unqualified claims
One common issue in greenwashing is using terms like 'green,' 'eco-friendly,' or 'sustainable' without clear explanations. Businesses should refrain from making unqualified claims like stating products are made with 'sustainable materials' without specifying which materials and why they're considered sustainable. Be cautious when making claims about biodegradability, compostability, or recyclability by providing clear guidance on consumer actions. Claims about emissions reduction, offsets, or carbon neutrality should include explanations of calculation methods, reduction efforts, and details about offsetting projects funded. To avoid greenwashing, prioritise transparency and clarity in your messaging, ensuring you don't mislead consumers.
- Insufficient evidence to back up claims
Some businesses made environmental and sustainability claims without backing them up with evidence. It was challenging to verify the accuracy of these claims due to the lack of supporting information. While some businesses tried to provide information, it often fell short, lacking detail or containing unqualified claims. Broken links to evidence were also an issue. However, some businesses effectively substantiated their claims by including relevant information, accessible click-through links, and presenting evidence clearly. To avoid greenwashing, make sure to support your claims with compelling evidence in a friendly and accessible manner.
- Use of absolute claims
It's common for businesses to make claims like "100% plastic-free," "100% recyclable," or "100% carbon positive" to create a strong impression on consumers. However, if a product fails to live up to these claims, it can be misleading. For instance, if a product labelled as "100% plastic-free" contains small amounts of plastic, the claim may be false or misleading and considered greenwashing. Businesses should exercise caution when making absolute claims, ensuring they are clear and supported by robust evidence to avoid greenwashing.
- Make meaningful comparisons
Sometimes businesses make comparisons or boast about improvements, but it can leave us feeling puzzled. They might mention using fewer resources or creating less waste, but forget to mention how much less or what they're comparing it to. And those claims about lower environmental impacts? They don't provide any sources or explain what exactly they mean. It can be misleading and make it hard for us to understand the real benefits of a product. So, businesses, let's keep it clear! If you want to make comparisons, make them meaningful, give us the details, and help your audience make informed choices without all the guesswork.
- Beware of exaggerated sustainability claims
Some businesses like to overstate their environmental benefits or conveniently leave out important info. Even though they may claim to invest in renewable energy, they could still heavily rely on fossil fuels. Claims of recyclability or compostability may sound good, but they might not have proper systems in place to actually make it happen. And those carbon offset claims? Well, they often overlook the need to actively reduce their own emissions (which can be done as easily as optimising your website). These can all be considered greenwashing. Therefore, try to be as transparent as possible and avoid exaggerating some claims that may not be true.
- Third-party certification
Many businesses claimed affiliation with certification schemes and used certification trade marks (CTMs). However, unclear descriptions of the certification's nature and relevance to products and misleading use of CTMs can be considered greenwashing. Make sure to use the proper third-party certification where appropriate with clear descriptions.
- Use of images
Some businesses used logos or symbols on their websites and packaging that looked like trust marks. These symbols, often featuring leaves, the planet, or the colour green, gave the impression of certification. However, upon closer inspection, it was discovered that these images were not associated with any certification scheme. This raises concerns because consumers may be deceived into thinking that the business or product is certified by a third party when it is not. Thus, ensure you use appropriate images to avoid considered greenwashing.
Careful, Avoid Greenwashing
Now that you know, make sure to take note of all these points so that your business can market your efforts in sustainability clearly without being greenwashing.