Greenwashing is a sneaky practice. Brands will use clever marketing tactics and techniques to lead consumers to believe that their purchase is more sustainable and ethical than it may truly be.
Here’s 5 Greenwashing Techniques Brands Commonly Use
Claims that are unregulated or cannot be proven
A few years ago I wrote a post about Herbal Essences’ newly released Bio:Renew haircare line. To this day it is one of the most popular posts on my website. Consumers, like yourself, have likely caught on that the bio:renew line is questionable.
At the time, Herbal Essences claimed “Bio:renew brings your hair back to life in just 21 days” without any literature to back up the statement. Sure, it sounds great, but consumers are becoming wiser and want to see the scientific data. This is a prime example of claims that cannot be proven.
I’m picking on Herbal Essences only because they’re a great example. Their Bio:Renew line has beautiful branding to depict floral imagery of ingredients that are naturally derived. This technique is often used with haircare lines… I’m not sure why, but it seems like haircare enjoys partaking in greenwashing.
Another example would be a brand who creates their own certification with a logo displayed front and centre on their packaging. The average consumer has not researched what type of certification it might be or whether it’s reliable. However, because it is displayed we instinctually believe that it must have some worth.
Certifications that aren’t third party
What does it matter if a certification is third party, you might ask? Luckily for you, I’ve written a post on the importance of third party certifications. In a nutshell, it shows that an outside source is validating their truth for their claims.
Brands that only highlight the good
Upon researching brands for this series I learnt a lot of brands don’t want to showcase their downfalls. And I completely understand that. How on Earth could the negatives of the brand lead to increased sales?
However, Burt’s Bees had an impressing sustainability report. Within it, they highlight targets that they have achieved and the ones where they need to improve.
When a brand appears to be perfect it can make them distrustful. In reality, no one is perfect. And consumers are beginning to value transparency.
Sometimes a brand is so bad they are required by the government to deal with a problem they’ve created. In 2010, BP was responsible for the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf Coast. At first they received plenty of negative press and faced huge fines from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.)
However, by actively targeting their advertising to play on emotions in an apologetic and heartfelt manner they were able to recover from the initial negative press. Many brands will do this to cover up their past mistakes. It doesn’t make them green, but it does skew consumer perception.
With all these techniques in mind, what company do you believe is greenwashing?