Madis Päev

How to avoid marketing greenwashing and become actually green

Keynotes for you to take away from this post:

  • Pretending to be green will not only harm the environment but also your clients and your business.
  • Take real actions on the environmental problems and work for third party certificates
  • Communicate your actions to your audience and be as transparent as possible

What is corporate greenwashing?

While I shop for groceries, I have started to look more closely at which kind of products I consume. I made a discovery that even me with the marketing experience fell for greenwashing tricks.

I bought a pack of “Happy chicken eggs”. It made me instantly think about happy chicken walking around the farm and sure, I’ll pay a few euros more for that.

Later on, when I read about perch chickens and this farm has 50m2 for 1800 chickens, it does not sound any better than caged chickens. They also planned to get another 1800 chicks. Go figure where they put them.

Corporate greenwashing is a marketing technique to show how eco-friendly they are instead of actually taking steps toward green thinking.

The most popular way for greenwashing is to add buzzword labels to the packages like “100% natural”, “eco friendly” or “vegan friendly”.

The main idea for greenwashing is to be attractive for people who care about the environment as green thinking has become more trendy year to year and most probably will be even more popular in the coming years.

Why exactly is greenwashing bad?

But corporations lie all the time?! What does it matter, if they paint themself as eco-friendly businesses or not?

It is not always true. As long as you are a legitimate business you rather focus on the best selling points instead of lying. It’s the basics of marketing.

Greenwashing is harming competition, consumers and business itself.

Big fast fashion companies like H&M, which advertise in every possible way it’s an environmentally sustainable business, recycles a very small part of its fragments (read more about it here). As H&M advertising budget is huge, then smaller businesses that actually are eco-friendly have a hard time competing for the attention. 

That means that consumers will lose as consumers will not receive what was promised. The difference is that until they do not know that, it makes an illusion that everybody is happy.

In the end, we come back to the company loss, when customers get exposed to reality and they will call out the company for lying. Even when it was a half-truth, customers don’t care.

Some remarkable examples

What could your business do to avoid being labeled as “greenwasher”?

Even when your business has started its journey to change more environmentally friendly, you should think through how you communicate it to your audience. Just slapping a green leaf to your package does not make your business green.

83% of consumers feel that they are confused and misled with green buzzwords and 90% of consumers believe that businesses should be more transparent in their activities.

That means, if you are using eco-friendly buzzword labels then you should also describe your claims with evidence that your business truly is green.

In addition to your own claims, it’s important to set goals to gain certificates with your eco-friendly activities. There are many authoritative third party organizations, whose approval will give you permission to add their emblems on your marketing materials.

Certificates show that your claims are controlled and trusted.

Some examples of which certificates you could apply:

  • Energy star is one of the most recognized certifications in the US. This government-run program rates product energy efficiency for technology.
  • Cradle to cradle certification shows if your product is produced in an environmentally friendly manner. It has strict requirements to manufactures
  • Scs Certified Recycled Content certificate proves, that your products are made at least partly from recycled materials

Read about 20 more certificates you can apply for:

It is fine if your business is not green enough yet to apply for certifications. You can still communicate to your audience that you aim for becoming certified and give in detail a description of how you are planning to do it.

Few points to become actually green

So, to market your business as environmentally friendly you don’t need to add a green leaf to your product package and say “now we are eco-friendly”. Most people feel misled and confused about that approach.

//On a side note, I also do not recommend using charity campaigns where you donate a few shekels to some organization for every product consumer buys. It could have a positive effect when you support a local organization or event.

Bigger charity organizations have a bad reputation of using the money for personal gains and don’t really fulfill their promises.

The best approach to green marketing is to actually work on environmental problems that your business creates. It gives you extra material to produce content marketing that is trustworthy and clearly understandable.

In my opinion, the Bolt app has done really good work with green marketing. They do actual product development to be more green and communicate it through blog posts where they go into details about why and how they become more eco-friendly.

Need help with marketing?

Send me a quick message and let’s grow your business beyond the Eco-friendly niche.