If you’ve heard of whitewashing, you should have no trouble understanding the concepts behind “greenwashing.” As consumers have increasingly become friendlier toward companies embracing environmental friendliness, the benefits of being a green company have become more pronounced. But for some organizations, the costs of going green can be a deterrent. In those cases, some of these companies have resorted to a practice known as “greenwashing” — creating the appearance that they’re going green without actually implementing these changes.
This can occur in many ways. For example, a company could promote itself as investing in or using green energy to reduce its dependence on fossil fuels. But that actual investment into green energy could be extremely marginal compared to total energy expenditures.
Unfortunately, many consumers are unaware of the truth behind these advertisements and give their business to companies lying about their practices. Fortunately, there are some ways consumers can find out what’s really happening behind closed doors, helping them make more informed purchasing choices while supporting the companies most deserving of their business.
Visit the company’s website
A good place to start in any greenwashing investigation is on the company’s website. Many companies will have a part of their website devoted to their advances in green practices and sustainable operations. Find this information — if it’s available — and read through it to get the details. If a company’s green info is limited or vague, it could be a red flag — especially if the company’s advertising is much louder about what it’s doing to help the earth. It’s hard to get anything conclusive from a website, but a quick search should give you some leads to check out.
Check with environmental advocates and organizations
Environmental organizations are in the know when it comes to company green practices. Many such organizations offer certifications that companies crave, because it improves their reputation among the public. Find out what, if any, environmental certifications a company has, and what environmental advocates are saying about the company. When a company is publicizing big strides in green reform but no certifying organizations have been a first-hand witness to those changes, there’s a definitely possibility that the company isn’t being entirely honest.
Learn more about their business partners
When it comes to businesses implementing green practices, the company you keep matters. Look at a company’s various business partners, including distributors and suppliers, to get a better idea of what their green practices are like. Partnerships with other green organizations are a positive sign, in part because the company in question is putting its business toward other green entities. But if all or most of its partnerships have poor green reputations, there’s reason to start getting pessimistic.
Eventually you’ll need to get down to the cold hard truth of what green practices are in place. Are sustainable materials being used when possible? Is energy conservation a focus in the workplace? What about waste reduction? Are businesses depending on commercial vehicle fleets employing fuel management strategies to cut down on fuel costs? Flesh out a long list of considerations and go through them one-by-one to find out the truth.
Uncovering a company’s greenwashing is no easy task, but it’s of great benefit to consumers and the green movement in general. Just by staying alert when it comes to possible greenwashing, you can make better decisions as a consumer and support green issues simply through your purchasing habits. And as greenwashing awareness becomes more prominent, businesses will likely be scared away from those strategies and resolve to be more honest with the public.