Sustainable Living – Spotting Greenwashing

Beautiful natural images and ‘eco’ messaging can lull us into a false sense of security. But we need to use our critical faculties to avoid falling prey to greenwashing.

Living in a sustainable way always means being very careful about the companies you deal with and the things you buy. One great thing at the moment is that more and more people are becoming aware of environmental issues, social injustices and the importance of sustainability. But while this is of course a very good thing – the rising tide of public opinion and this growing awareness means greenwashing is more rife than ever before.

Greenwashing is simply the attempt to gloss over or minimise environmental harm while focussing on supposed sustainability successes.

Fortunately, when you keep your head screwed on and have an investigative and analytical mindset, not taking everything at face value, greenwashing is easy to spot. Here are some things to look out for when trying to identify this problem:

  • A lack of transparency.
  • A small success story for a company hiding major harm.
  • Umbrella companies or hidden owners with an ‘eco’ company to improve PR.
  • Carbon neutrality claims or net zero goals which do not tell the whole story, or which rely on dodgy off-setting.
  • Internal company definitions of ‘sustainable’, ‘green’ etc. which may not match the consensus ‘real deal’.
  • Misleading or misused terms – ‘natural’, ‘biodegradable’ etc…
  • Money trails that lead to problematic investments or financing.

Greenwashing is rife. But by delving just a little deeper, we can often avoid being taken in. We can make sure that we verify all claims to be beneficial for people and planet before we make up our minds. By being vigilant for greenwashing, we can make the right decisions to ourselves, and make our voices heard when it comes to bringing offenders to account.

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