Green(washing) : How to not get lost in all the greening

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What Is Greenwashing
As people are becoming more aware of the environmental issues, there is a big demand for products and services that are green, bio, eco, fair, but often these terms are being misused by businesses. Greenwashing is “when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact”. It occurs in all the fields starting from retail clothing and cosmetics leading up to banks and other major international firms.

How It Works
Some companies claim to be green when they really have only a few green practices, which doesn’t necessarily ensure sustainable development. GreenAdvisor has a mission to change this behaviour by influencing those who are trying to deceive consumers and by making the world of sustainability more transparent by letting companies know that we are aware of their activities and this kind of dishonesty shall not be tolerated.

Seven Sins of Greenwashing
Terrachoice carried out a research about greenwashing and put together the main false claims that companies make to look more sustainable and named them Seven Sins of Greenwashing. Comparing to the studies carried out in consecutive years, the number of theoretically green products has increased rapidly. However, only less than 5% of the products were found totally sin-free (out of almost 5000).
The study concluded that the sins are about betraying people by hiding information or misinterpreting existing information. One of the sins implies to making environmental claims that have no evidence to back them up. For example, personal care products that claim no animal testing but offer no proof or third-party verification.

Sometimes the sin is about irrelevance such as making a claim that is true but not important nor helpful. For instance, label “CFC-free” – these compounds have been banned internationally for nearly twenty years. So be sure you acquaint yourself with the ingredients in order not to be fooled. Another foolproof example is when a product is labeled as “chemical-free”, but this cannot be true, even water is a chemical. Another common label is “all-natural”. There are naturally occurring chemicals, that are toxic and poisonous (arsenic, uranium, mercury, and formaldehyde).

And How to Avoid It
Don’t fall for basic marketing tricks. Be sure to look behind the general expressions and see how are those statements backed up. Is their claim of environmentally-friendliness true just because they put it on a big billboard on every corner? Does the company spend as much money implementing green practices in its business as it does on promoting them? Don’t get me wrong, there are also some companies and organizations who really do care about the environment and constantly work for the better planet. The important aspect is to know how to difference the two and make a better choice. You can do that by checking company’s mission and all their sustainability activities as well as knowing the certificates and labels that are recognized all over the world. CliffsNotes guide to eco-certification 101! is a great tool to find all the eco-labels by category and with an explanation or you can also check this list. Refuse to buy the products from companies that are committing any of the sins mentioned above and, as always, do your research on the companies’ policies and products themselves.

As people are becoming more and more aware of their environmental impact and the action that must be taken to reduce it, companies are trying to derive profit from consumers lack of knowledge in this field. There is a lack of transparency regarding the real state of things, and GreenAdvisor is the solution because we are going to share people-to-people insights. It will combat greenwashing by adding transparency and letting people speak based on their experience, just like Tripadvisor did for the travel industry.

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