24 January 2022
Greenwashing has become the new sustainable buzzword holding corporations to account. So what does it actually mean? The European Commission defines it as: companies giving a false impression of their environmental impact or benefits
An example of greenwashing is when a company says they are sustainable but they use 80% non-recyclable materials in their products, or they use transportation such as airfreight that has a high carbon footprint but the company claims to have a low carbon footprint. A company who have recently been accused of greenwashing are Chanel with their new No1 range. The issue with greenwashing is that some companies don’t know they are doing it, either through a lack of expertise or up-to-date information. In the last few years some of the largest companies have been held responsible for greenwashing – running campaigns that have misadvised their clients with false or unpublished information.
This article will focus on your packaging, and how it complies with the environmental claims you are making. You must ensure that you are telling your customers the truth about your products. In October 2021 the ASA, (Advertising Standards Authority) implemented stricter regulations to hold companies accountable for the claims they make. This is in relation to their sustainable steps, guidelines and ethos.
When it comes to marketing your packaging and products, you have to be careful that you say what you do, and do what you say. You need to make sure that your visuals aren’t misleading, you don’t make extreme promises, or lack sufficient data to back up your statements. If your product can be accredited by an organization that will increase your sustainable/ethical platform then get that product approved. But make sure that it is with an affiliated organization (for example if your products are cruelty free then make sure that you are certified by an a board such as the PETA).
Here are a few documents that you may find useful in helping you to uphold your business’ sustainable and ethical practices:
When you make a statement (such as: we will be using 100% sustainable materials by 2025) make sure that you include clear outlined steps towards this goal and that are published in a public place. When they’re easily accessible, watchdogs can check your claims are backed up with evidence submitted in your original statements. This also ensures that everyone in your company knows what your aims are, what the steps towards the end goal are and what the overall impact of the changes will be. As an add-on effect these steps ensure stability in the workplace and will stop your company from being held accountable for not disclosing accurate information to employees as well as customers.
With packaging, it is important to know the origin of the materials you are using and the suppliers you are getting them from before you declare that you use sustainable packaging. It is also a good idea to look into how it is manufactured and where it is shipped from and to – all of this will impact how consumers see it as ‘sustainable’ and whether you could be held accountable for greenwashing. The regulations are different for each country and state, so it’s best to check the legislation for where your office is based and then where your customers are.
For more information on greenwashing please visit your government website, and check your marketing/advertising regulations which should have clarified guidelines you can base your steps and campaigns around. This article is not a legal document.