What is Greenwashing? 3 Ways to Avoid It

Data shows that consumers are looking to purchase more environmentally conscious products. Nielson’s Global Corporate Sustainability Report found that 66% of consumers would spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand.

But, beware of greenwashing. 

What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is the practice of over-exaggerating a company’s environmental credentials through marketing communications. 

It involves inflating or fabricating claims about the eco-friendliness of products, services, or business practices to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers. At it’s. core, it is a form of deception where companies prioritize the appearance of sustainability over actual environmentally responsible actions.

Companies that participate in greenwashing use the allure of sustainability to falsely advertise their products or services. Greenwashing is most commonly used to enhance profitability, where companies can use fabricated data to sell their ‘greenness’ to consumers and stakeholders. 


Image Source: Moneywise

What are the Consequences of Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is unethical, as it manipulates the consumer for corporate gain. At the same time, it harms a brand’s reputation, making them more susceptible to financial and legal risks. Tarnishing a brand reputation creates a negative consumer perspective and becomes risky to investors. 

Greenwashing can lead to “green fatigue” among consumers, where they become cynical and apathetic towards environmental claims. This fatigue may result in people dismissing genuine efforts to promote sustainability, making it challenging for companies with authentic eco-friendly practices to gain recognition

By engaging in greenwashing, companies can deflect attention away from their unsustainable practices, avoiding the necessary changes required for a genuinely eco-friendly operation. This delay in addressing environmental issues can contribute to further damage to the planet.

Why is Greenwashing Problematic?

Greenwashing misleads individuals who genuinely want to make environmentally responsible choices. When companies make false claims about their products or practices, consumers may become skeptical about the legitimacy of any environmental claims, making it difficult for truly sustainable businesses to stand out.

Here are some examples of why greenwashing is problematic:

  • It is usually driven by profitability.
  • It can use fabricated claims of data to skew results. 
  • It is hypocritical to label products as ‘green’ when that is not the case. 
  • Greenwashing is socially irresponsible and damages customer trust. 

The EU’s Ban

The Guardian reported the EU’s decisive move seeks to enhance transparency and authenticity in environmental marketing. The EU has taken a significant step towards combating greenwashing by implementing a ban for 2026 on misleading environmental claims dependent on carbon offsetting.

Some words included in the ban:

  • “climate neutral”
  • “climate positive”
  • “environmentally friendly”
  • “biodegradable”
  • “eco”
  • “carbon neutral”
  • “natural”

The legislation aims to curb deceptive practices where businesses exaggerate their eco-friendly initiatives by relying solely on offsetting measures without addressing the root causes of environmental harm. By prohibiting such misleading claims, the EU aims to foster genuine sustainability efforts and hold companies accountable for their environmental impact.

How to Avoid Greenwashing as an Organization

Avoiding greenwashing as an organization all stems from your data! Ensuring quality data and proper management is key to avoiding false eco-friendly claims.

Data Transparency 

Make sure claims are clear and are supported with data. Make sure visuals on marketing materials and packaging do not imply your products are eco-friendly if they are not. 

Data Governance 

Having proper policies in place to govern how data is gathered and stored can ensure that claims made are accurate, precise, and supported. 

Honesty & Understanding

While the allure of marketing products as green can be tempting to pursue, really focusing on the consumer perspective can help you avoid accidentally greenwashing. You can ask yourself these questions: Am I telling the whole story? Do my consumers understand the context? Have I conveyed my message accurately? Honesty is key.

Here are some points to look out for to avoid supporting greenwashing:

  • Fluffy language, use of buzzwords like “sustainability”, “green”, “natural” and “eco-friendly”, or intentional green packaging for products typically not seen as sustainable.
  • Using information that only a scientist could accurately fact-check.
  • Providing no proof or impact reports for environmental claims. 
  • Cherry-picking reports and statistics to support your product without full context.

Examples of Greenwashing

1. Misleading Packaging

Some companies use packaging that implies environmental friendliness without any substantial changes in their product. For instance, a product labeled as “green” or “natural” may still contain harmful chemicals, and the packaging might not be recyclable.

2. Vague Claims

Companies often use vague terms like “eco-friendly,” “green,” or “sustainable” without providing specific details about their environmental efforts. Without concrete evidence, these claims are essentially empty promises.

3. Manipulative Advertising   

Advertisements can be manipulative by using imagery or language that implies a strong commitment to the environment without any real substance behind it. For instance, a company might showcase a natural landscape in its ads, creating a false association with its products.

4. False Certifications

Some companies display third-party certifications without proper accreditation or use certifications with lax standards. This creates a false sense of legitimacy and trust in their environmental claims.


Greenwashing is a pervasive issue that demands the attention of conscious consumers. By understanding the tactics employed by companies seeking to capitalize on the green movement without making meaningful changes, individuals can make informed choices that truly contribute to a sustainable future. 

By staying vigilant, scrutinizing claims, and supporting genuinely eco-friendly businesses, consumers play a crucial role in encouraging responsible corporate behavior and fostering a more sustainable world.

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