Greenwashing is a real problem. More and more products are on sale with packaging splashed in various shades of green with environmental imagery. Ever wondered why?
The definition of greenwashing – When a company (and their product) claim they are doing more to protect the environment than they actually are.
In 2020, Break Free From Plastic produced their Brand Audit Report 2020 and it’s grim reading. Page 30 of the report lists the top 10 worst polluters
1. Coca Cola (Coca Cola, Fanta, Sprite)
2. Pepsico (Pepsi, Doritos, Lay’s)
3. Nestle (Nescafe, KitKat, Nestea)
4. Unilever (Persil, Sunsilk, Cornetto)
5. Mondelēz (Oreo, Cadbury, LU)
6. Mars (M&Ms, Wrigley, Snickers)
7. P&G (Tampax, Ariel, Pantene)
8. Philip Morris International (Parliament, Marlboro, Merit)
9. Colgate Palmolive (Colgate, Palmolive, Ajax)
10. Perfetti Van Melle (Mentos, Chupa Chups, Alpenliebe)
Of course, you will recognise quite a few on the list and probably use them regularly. Some you may not have heard of the parent company but recognise the brands under their umbrella.
Changes in packaging
Recently, many brands have started incorporating the colour green into their packaging (if it wasn’t there already) and are including key words like ‘eco’ or ‘biodegradable’ hoping to appeal to the eco conscious market. This gives the consumer the impression that this product has been made with the environment in mind and is environmentally friendly. But that isn’t always the case. Greenwashing!
Sadly, because of these practices mean some companies are not being completely truthful in their marketing.
Let’s explore an example of greenwashing
Below is an example that really got to me recently. I can see they are trying but, in my opinion, they haven’t got it quite right.
My five-year-old loves crafting so we go through quite a bit of clear tape, I’ve been looking at environmentally friendly alternatives and saw this in the shop.
First thing to notice is all the words and images expected if you are eco conscious – ‘zero plastic’, ‘plant-based’ and they’ve got an image of the earth and a leaf. Thus, giving us the impression it’s environmentally friendly.
How can you dispose of this?
Because I was intrigued, I had a look at the product information for this product online. Look more closely to the below screenshot
The key sentence – ‘is biodegradable in an industrial composting plant‘.
This product is sold in a box and its core are easily recyclable and it’s great the tape is biodegradable, however, only if the tape is placed in an industrial composting plant. How does it get there in the first place? Do you separate your rubbish into a box for ‘industrial composting plant’? No? It’s OK, I don’t either. So, where do you think it will end up instead?
An equally important aspect was this article I came across published in 2020 in The Guardian, it appears there are only 53 of these industrial composting facilities in the UK.
What to look out for
- Key buzzwords like ‘green’ or ‘natural’ or ‘eco’ – there aren’t any strict regulations on what these are.
- Packaging with images of the planet, leaves, plants and a lot of green.
- Do your research – lookout for approved seal logos on their packaging. In order to use these logos, the company would have to follow very strict guidelines in their practices.
- For example, can all of it be recycled kerbside? Look out for terms such as ‘recycled in an industrial composting plant’ as there aren’t many in the UK.
In spite of this, there are a lot of companies out there are trying to do their best for the environment, they key is to do your research and buy sensibly.