Is it really green or is it greenwashing?

What is Greenwashing?

The concept of Greenwashing emerged in the 1980s and is based on wrong claims and sometimes even fraudulent claims about the environmental characteristics or responsibilities of a company, with the aim of appearing more sustainable and eco-friendly, without actually implementing these sustainable practices. Through Greenwashing, consumers are led to believe that sustainability is the main pillar of a given product or company, without any scientifically proven basis and can be practiced by any type of company or institution.

Why do companies practice greenwashing?

One of the main reasons is that they are seen as ethical companies, which drives profitability. It’s estimated that 66% of consumers would choose to spend more on a product if it’s part of a sustainable brand and in the case of generation Y, this number increases to 73%.

Greenwashing thumb

Some examples of Greenwashing:

  • Stamps and logos created by brands that sell the image that they are environmentally friendly but have no validity in terms of environmental certification. For example, saying that a product is certified, without the reference or identification of the standard and certifying entity;

  • Use, especially in advertising campaigns, of a natural green and/or organic image, when the product is anything but ecological;

  • Using expressions such as ecological, sustainable, biodegradable, zero carbon, etc., without a detailed, objective and sustained explanation;

  • Claiming that a product has a reduced water consumption, when it’s verified that this product, compared to one of the same category, consumes more energy;

  • The lack of communication of certain prohibited substances/practices or the communication of certain initiatives without informing of compliance with the regulations in force and which is a common legal obligation.


What solutions exist to combat Greenwashing?

“The European Commission adopted on March 11, 2020, a new Action Plan for the Circular Economy, which constitutes one of the main foundations of the European Green Deal, Europe’s new roadmap for sustainable growth. The new Circular Economy Action Plan sets out a forward-looking strategy to create a cleaner and more competitive Europe in partnership with economic agents, consumers, citizens and civil society organisations, with a view to accelerate the change required in the context of the European Green Deal and based on actions taken in the field of circular economy since 2015.

Through the application of measures throughout the entire life cycle of products, this new Action Plan aims to adapt the economy to an ecological future, strengthen competitiveness, while simultaneously protecting the environment and granting new rights to consumers. In this context, a set of measures is proposed, whose objectives are:

  • Ensure the sustainability of products;

  • Empower consumers;

  • Concentrate action on sectors that are more intensive in the use of resources and where the potential for circularity is high;

  • Reduction of waste production.” (Know more here)


What should companies do?

Companies must adopt genuine sustainable practices and must provide transparent evidence to confirm such practices, promoting trust and credibility.