Are you an unintentional propagator of fake sustainability?

One might be equipped with the understanding of what Fake Sustainability or greenwashing is and still fall in the trap of propagating it as easily as it is to be a victim of it. 

Let’s begin at the start. 

So what is greenwashing you may ask?

Greenwashing is a deceptive form of marketing that wrongly claims a company’s products, policies, and goals are environmentally friendly and therefore do less damage to nature, with an underlying purpose to increase profits- in simple words fake marketing their own brand for being sustainable. 

Why do Companies end up greenwashing?

  1. Profits

It helps to gain favour with consumers who choose to support businesses that care about bettering the planet. Over that, many times brands charge false premiums too.

  1. Fixing brand image 

Greenwashing takes up valuable space in the fight against environmental issues, like climate change, plastic ocean pollution, air pollution, and global species extinctions. It is easier said than done and hence easier to Greenwash than to actually Green-Make.  

  1. Impulsive Trend Jumping – FOMO

It refers to a tendency where people want to be the early torchbearers of sustainability, they want to tell the stories where they are the heroes and thus the rush makes them accept incomplete facts and the feel-good stories. Furthermore, the comfort of getting it quickly and easily aggravates the situation. 

  1. The ironical ask of wanting it all too quick

It is like wanting to be healthy and eating fast food daily to co-exist. It is also about wanting to build the perfect product today and ignore the possibilities of structural changes across supply chains for holistic sustainability over a period. It’s easy to buy carbon credits and tough to wait for your manufacturers to equip their facilities with green energy and water treatment plants. 

Well then based on these one can understand that either the brand is oblivious of the fact that they are greenwashing or is engaging in it mindfully but the consumer of their content, often a conscious consumer who likes to talk about sustainability ends up being an unintentional propagator of greenwashing.

Unintentional Greenwashing

  1. Unawareness rooted in the fear of science and the rush for the solution

The matter of reducing water, carbon, changing chemicals, and understanding their impact on the environment is a complicated science. It can also be outside the purview of the brand which is further aggravated by the rush leading to spread misinformation while being unaware of the true sustainability footprint. 

  1. Long Supply Chains amplifies the misinformation

Products are often made through the Long Supply chain. Many times it takes more than 7 different companies to make one garment reach you. Farmers, fiber processors, yarn spinners, etc. are all different entities. By the time product and story reach brands who sell it to the consumer – the stories are all infested by half-truths that get amplified as they pass on- same as how gossip travels.

  1. Lack of Resources

Sometimes innovators and smaller companies lack resources to establish their scientific calculation of environmental impact as compared to other giants who have additional resources to take advantage of systematic benefits and scale. And hence the stories do have a chance to be biased. 

How to fight greenwashing?

Apart from working on the above three things as a society, here’s what you can do to fight the spread of Greenwashing:

  1. Learn and practice spotting greenwashing:

The only way to not fall victim and not get involved in propagating greenwashing is to be smart at spotting them. Read our 10 ways to spot it here.

  1. Practice pitching your sustainable story objectively:

Storytelling doesn’t mean ignoring the facts. It would rather mean telling them effectively. Do not be gullible towards an emotional narration of sustainability, make it a point to dig deeper. Be effective without being false. Look for the complete truth. Do not end your search at labels and certificates. 

  1. Long term over marketing Pop-ups:

True sustainability is progressive rather than one pop-up of amazingness. If you notice one sudden spur of sustainability and not progress in that story from time to time, it is time to check if the story is more of a marketing gimmick or a real execution on the ground. 

  1. Know it is worth fighting for:

We think that people don’t put in efforts to fight a problem if they think that the problem is not big enough. Greenwashing causes systematic delays. Here are three examples:

  1. It Hinders the real solution. It makes it tough for truly holistic climate action solutions to find their space as they fight the unreal ease and economics of greenwashing. 
  2. There is loss of faith in the cause. When the truth is revealed, people lose faith and become skeptical of the good solution. Many will simply despair and say “they are all lying,” 
  3. It causes huge collateral damages. Just as it would not be wise to have a medicine that cures a one deadly disease in exchange of causing another, it is not wise to solve a water problem and cause excessive carbon problems in exchange.

Greenwashing is a phenomenon that harms both the consumer and honest companies that hold the environment core to everything they do. It is important to spot the greenwashing, understand why it happens and how we can stop it.