Are we all being greenwashed?

Authenticity is a word that comes up A LOT at Brandality. It informs much of our thinking when we’re brainstorming new branding and identity ideas for clients and when we’re helping brands to find their ‘voice’ to speak to their target consumers.

In a crowded consumer market, true authenticity can help a product stand out and is a key element of success for many smaller brands – particularly those aimed at younger consumers who are increasingly looking for an emotional connection with the things they choose to spend their money on.

And that brings us to other terminology brands must embrace to chime with today’s zeitgeist: sustainable, biodegradable, recyclable, eco, environmentally-friendly, natural, pure – the list goes on. New launches are factoring some, or all, of these key words and phrases into their credentials, while existing brands are scrambling to re-position in a bid to ensure they’re not left behind as the environmental bandwagon rolls into town.

But are consumers being fobbed off with some clever greenwashing – misleading marketing/advertising and PR claims aimed at convincing shoppers a product/brand or service is ‘green’ when in fact it’s just as environmentally damaging as one that makes no claims? That appears to be the case in some instances at least.

You only have to do a quick Google of the term greenwashing and hundreds of links come up.  We particularly like this article from The Guardian, that not only explains more about greenwashing and where the term originated but also points to some outrageous examples.

Just a few weeks ago Plymouth University published a report pointing out that so-called ‘biodegradable’ plastic bags were still usable as bags some three years after being buried underground – biodegradable they might be, but over how many years? Several, hundreds or thousands? Meanwhile, most of the take-out cardboard coffee cups printed with a ‘recyclable’ claim might be in theory but are in fact, plastic-lined with very few plants in the UK able to actually process them, meaning most go straight to landfill.

And some of the world’s biggest brands are implicated in greenwashing. At the end of April Nestle proudly announced that “77% of its agricultural commodities are verified as deforestation-free”. Fabulous we thought…. however, the same day saw a damning statement from Greenpeace claiming Nestle’s assertion “wholly contradicts” recent discussions with Nestle and its sustainability consultants, accusing Nestle of “a blatant and embarrassing attempt” to “deceive its customers”.

And so, we come back to where we started – with authenticity. Creating a truly green and sustainable product means taking a holistic approach and considering everything – from product ingredients to packaging, the supply chain and how you treat your suppliers and staff.

We know that green perfection simply isn’t feasible for many brands and that’s where honesty comes in. We believe consumers will have more respect for a brand that’s honest about where it is in its sustainable and ethical journey than one making spurious claims that don’t stand up to scrutiny.

If you’d like to talk about how best to convey your ethical brand values in an authentic, honest way, come in for a chat and see how we can help.