WHAT IS GREENWASHING?
Greenwashing is the deliberate intent of marketing campaigns to appear environmentally friendly and sustainable. This phenomenon easily gets blown out of proportion and tricks consumers into thinking they are purchasing something with much higher credibility than it actually deems (1). This is unethical marketing that makes a "green" company seem more green than it is in reality.
This unfortunate and unethical manipulation of marketing has been occurring since the 1980’s, as the need for responsible and ethical companies has grown. Carbon-offsetting, renewable energy sources, and minimized single-use plastics are growing trends as global warming continues.
Both the Federal Trade Commissions and the Food & Drug Association have very little to moderate regulations on the cosmetic industry and its associated marketing campaigns. As other countries have increased regulations on misleading marketing, the US follows suit for updated guidelines in the cosmetics industry (2).
HOW TO AVOID IT?
You need to proactively question ingredients, marketing techniques and brand identity by asking yourself these questions:
Why am I drawn to this brand?
⫸ Is their overall look and wording drawing you in? Is it a mask over a less “green” truth created by unethical marketing, or does it accurately portray the brand?
Does their brand story seem authentic?
⫸ Are the brand’s claims hyperbolized? Or is it a credible claim with research, evidence, and/or action backing it up? Does their story back up the claim that they are a green company?
Do they have customer reviews?
⫸ Perhaps the most convincing of all marketing techniques! Hearing from other consumers like you is a great way to build trust with a brand’s efficacy.
What is their founder story?
⫸ A founder story helps build trust with a brand and should lay out the intention behind the company’s roots.
Do I know each and every ingredient?
⫸ If the list is too long and full of lab-synthesized ingredients that you can’t pronounce, then it probably isn’t as “green” as their marketing implies. Find a brand whose ingredients that are responsibly sourced.
Does their packaging and ingredient list match up to their claims?
⫸ Plastic packaging and toxic ingredients are not good practices for a brand that is claiming to be environmentally sound. Find brands that are happy to show you their packaging behind the scenes.
DECIPHERING CLEAN AND GREEN BEAUTY
Navigating a brand and its products calls for deliberation and research. Our skin is our body's largest organ, thus deserving meticulous care and non-toxic treatment.
We have compiled an extensive and thorough guide to help consumers grasp the cosmetic and skincare industry.
Enter the journey of a lifetime with our full guide to non-toxic skincare.
DON’T BE INTIMIDATED AND KNOW WHAT GREENWASHING IS
⟡ Once you know the basics of deciphering non-toxic beauty, you have this empowered knowledge for life.
⟡ Having just a handful of green companies you love and support is really all you need. Taking the time now, to understand the beneficial implications of clean, non-toxic skincare, will have a profound and lasting effect on your overall health forever.
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(1) Delmas, M. A., & Burbano, V. C. (2011). The drivers of greenwashing. California management review, 54 (1), 64-87.
(2) Dahl, R. (2010). Green washing: do you know what you’re buying?.