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How to dodge disingenuous packaging: Greenwashing

Greenwashing: a phenomenon that has changed over the last 20 years, is certainly still around. Greenwashing has a wide variety of definitions, but in short it refers to misleading or untrue advertisement concerning a product, service or a company’s environmental performance. As the world increasingly embraces the pursuit of greener practices, corporate actors face an influx of litigation for misleading environmental claims.

There are some key points to consider when trying to separate genuinity from “green” packaging:

  • Fluffy language: Words or terms with no clear meaning (e.g., "eco-friendly")
  • Green products vs. dirty company: For example, efficient light bulbs made in a factory that pollutes rivers
  • Suggestive pictures: Images that give an (unjustified) green impression (e.g., flowers blooming from exhaust pipes)
  • Irrelevant claims: Emphasis on one tiny green attribute when everything else contributes to pollution
  • "Best-in-class" boasts: Declaration that you are slightly greener than the rest, even if the rest are pretty terrible
  • Designations that are just not credible: For instance, the "greening" of a dangerous product to make it seem safe ("eco-friendly" cigarettes)
  • Gobbledygook: Jargon and information that only a scientist could check or understand
  • Imaginary friends: A label that looks like a third-party endorsement … except it's made up
  • No proof: A claim that could be right but has no evidence
  • Outright lies: Totally fabricated claims or data

However, false claims are not the only instances of greenwashing there is. Goals with no measurable targets or actionable plans, something that can be seen in many sustainability reports published by seemingly responsible companies, is another type of Greenwashing.

The problem with this type of greenwashing is that for a company to be truly sustainable, sustainability needs to be integrated in all parts of the business. This highlights the transformative impact that a true sustainability agenda can have. To have vague and unmeasurable sustainability targets can be misleading and hinder the whole movement by covering it with shadows of disgeniune packaging.

We believe in fast change for a sustainable future. In order to achieve that ideal, we have to be anchored in facts. Being transparent and genuine is crucial for the much needed rapid change. Only when we work together, with open communication and dedication, we will achieve real results for the globe.

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