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How to avoid being greenwashed – and ensure you are getting genuinely ethical products

Written By Charlotte Smith

On 5 Dec, 2022
key in chimney


Greenwashing is the practice of a corporate body or organisation intentionally deceiving customers into thinking their goods or services are more environmentally friendly than they actually are. So instead of actively reducing their carbon footprint, for example, by reducing their energy use and switching to renewable sources, they are spending money on inflating their ‘green image’ when in reality it isn’t so eco after all.

One recent example is KLM Airlines. They have found themselves fighting a legal battle due to their statements and adverts about their carbon-offsetting scheme which some environmental groups say mislead the public into thinking their flights won’t have negative effects on climate change. Not only are they facing a costly legal challenge, but bad publicity and a dirty, unethical image.

How do you spot Greenwashing?

  1. Look beyond the buzzwords and hype of the eco image. ‘Designed in UK’ but made where? In China where there are highly questionable slave practices and subject to long-distance shipping burning heavy oil-based bunker fuels? ‘90% organic’ but if you look at the small print is the other 10% made up of polluting or harmful chemicals?
  2. Beware of very general claims such as ‘Good for the planet.’ It would imply that the product was carbon-negative, when actually the firm were simply inferring that the product’s plant base was better than the animal-derived alternative.
  3. Use caution with organisations showing lots of plant-type or green environmental imagery, this can be misleading. An organisation might have images of British workers in a studio, but if you phone up and ask where their products are made, it’s contracted out to a foreign workforce run by a company with a questionable reputation and might well be exploiting child labour.
  4. On the flipside, if the company does nothing to reduce its environmental impact, you will notice it’s blatantly missing from their website and literature, they won’t be doing it. Putting the environment first isn’t always cheap and the first thing they will want to do is let you know if they are doing it – at the very least, they want some Brownie points!
  5. Look out for irrelevant claims – such as BPA-free plastic in babies’ bottles. It’s over a decade since it was made illegal to include such toxic chemicals in babies’ bottles, so it’s simply legally compliant which all such bottle manufacturers have to be – it’s not actually greener than its competitor which doesn’t mention it.
  6. Check eco-friendly certification – is it a false badge, or are they/their products actually listed on the certifier’s directory as having the green credentials they claim? Or could these have expired?



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