Are you being Greenwashed?

Claudia Geyer As a junior creative, my role is to help brands look their best. I show who a brand is visually through keyframes, vectors, and countless drafts, until the perfect one fits. I confidently face any design challenge head on, even when Photoshop crashes.

Whether you’re a devoted recycler, an avid light switcher-offer, or venturing into the world of shampoo bars, we’ve all started to do more to help our planet. As consumers, our awareness of how our buying habits impact climate change is having a big impact on how brands present themselves—and they’re taking notice. For some, this looks like taking genuine action, and for others… not so much.

There’s been a spike in brands that are making eco-conscious strides. More and more companies are becoming carbon neutral, using compostable packaging, and making their products from recyclable or sustainable materials. Given the severity of our planet’s warming, these are practices and attitudes consumers expect. Because big industries are major contributors to climate change, consumers are starting to get turned-off by brands that don’t care about their environmental impact. 

So what do we do to learn more about a new product we’re considering? We do a quick Google search about the product and see what people have to say about its performance and price tag. And now, in addition to the typical reviews, we’re seeing people call out brands for being unsustainable—despite the quality of their products. Sustainability has become a differentiator across markets that can influence a consumer to buy from one brand over another. 

IMB did a report focused around consumer habits and sustainability. In 2021, they found that “half of consumers said they were willing to pay a premium for a sustainable brand or sustainable products. And this year, 49% of consumers say they’ve paid a premium—an average of 59% more—for products branded as sustainable or socially responsible in the last 12 months.” In response to this global outcry for more sustainable options, brands started paying attention—clearly green is the way to go! And while a lot of brands are doing a great job improving their green efforts, others are taking the shortcut known as greenwashing. 

Greenwashing is when a company markets their products as eco-conscience and sustainable, when in reality, they’re not. To give the perception of being green, brands are using clever packaging and strategic language to ease the consumer’s conscience, persuading them that not only is the product they’re purchasing good, but also good for the planet.

One big celebrity recently in hot water for greenwashing is Kim Kardashian. She released a skincare line called “SKKN” featuring elevated bottles to—supposedly—eliminate unnecessary packaging waste. The brand advertised that the products had refills available with a clever slogan to “refill the responsible way.” The “reusable” part of her packaging simply acts as a case or shell for a typical bottle you see on the shelf in the store. The refills themselves can act alone as the dispenser for the product, making the reusable part completely unnecessary. Fans were not impressed, and made it clear in the comments for her launch post.

So, have you been duped? It’s okay if you have—greenwashing is a trend that many consumers are unaware of. Luckily, it is easy to find platforms on social media and websites that are devoted to reviewing brands that claim to be green, while also recommending brands that really do care about the environment. 

Diving into this research isn’t as hard as you might think. It just takes a little bit of close reading to see if the brand is being honest about its claims. Feeling motivated to do some digging? We’ve collected a few sites for you to get started! 

One great site that allows you to view brands and highlights certain products or claims is Greenwash. They are well-researched and explain where and how the greenwashing is happening. It’s not only informative, but also educational!  TikTok is another great resource. If you search #greenwashing you’ll see nearly 80 million views worth of videos calling out brands and products you see everyday in the store. One creator in particular, @krysgier, has amazing content and makes a series that spotlights a product to see if it’s truly sustainable. She also includes easy tips for living a more sustainable life. 

Consumers are starting to take a stand, holding companies accountable for their environmental impact. Especially through the undeniable power of social media, now is the time for greenwashing brands to change their ways and shift to a more eco-conscious path.


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