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5 Greenwashing Tactics Used by Big Brands (and How Your Business Can Do Better)

With climate change and the future of our planet on everyone’s minds, it is no surprise that brands are scrambling to prove their eco-friendly credentials.

Sadly, many of the claims made by big brands simply don’t stack up. And savvy shoppers are increasingly catching them in their misleading claims.

With greenwashing tactics eroding trust in sustainable brands, you need to prove to your customers that you are the real deal. So, we’ve compiled five examples of how big companies attempt to mislead people and what you can do to set yourself apart.

1. Not Revealing the Full Picture

How often have you spotted an item that’s labelled eco-friendly with no clear justification for that claim?

Big brands love to call products sustainable based on a single feature – maybe it is made from organic cotton, for example. But when you order, the whole thing comes wrapped in plastic.

True sustainability looks at every aspect of an item’s lifecycle. That includes everything from the raw materials and how it is manufactured, to packaging and delivery.

Your brand can set itself apart by showing how you’ve thought about your product’s full journey and are working to reduce its carbon footprint at every stage.

2. Not Being Transparent About Supply Chains

Very few companies handle every step in their product’s manufacture. So, there will be parts of the journey they outsource to others.

There’s nothing wrong with that. Except where brands only take responsibility for the final stages. If an item is wrapped in recyclable packaging but was made in a factory that pollutes the land, water, and air, then it’s a long way from being eco-friendly.

Keeping a careful eye on your supply chain, from raw materials to final product, means you can work towards a truly sustainable business. Share the information with your customers too, so they know they can trust you to be transparent.

3. Using Labelling Rules to Their Advantage

Big brands are experts in using loopholes in labelling laws to make their products seem better than they are.

How many times have you seen something labelled ‘vegan’ when it would never have contained animal products anyway? Or spotted ‘contains organic ingredients’ when they make up a tiny percentage of the whole?

Third-party certification schemes can help your eco-brand establish its true credentials and build trust with potential customers.

4. Making Misleading Claims

While most brands won’t blatantly lie, there’s plenty who will use vague product descriptions and overly technical language to make their products appear more environmentally friendly than they actually are.

Natural is a word that many companies love to use – it sounds good, but what does it actually mean? Wood is natural and technically renewable, but if it’s taken from ancient forests, it is not exactly fighting climate change.

Set your brand apart by being specific about any claims you make. If you say something is better for the environment, explain how. And use plain English so that your customers know you are being straight with them.

5. Shouting About Their Non-Profit Work

Many brands love to talk about how they are giving back to the planet. They’ll shout about the donations they’ve made, the projects they’ve funded, and the communities they’re investing in.

Obviously, corporate social responsibility is something we should encourage. But dig a little deeper into those glowing news stories and it becomes clear that many big brands only pay lip service to this work. The percentage of the profits that make it to sustainable projects are often tiny compared with the CEO’s bonus.

Your brand can show your commitment to building a stronger and more sustainable future by being transparent about how and where your profits are spent.

No one will blame you for wanting to make a living. But if your company claims to support charitable work, you need to show how that money is spent.

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