In essence, greenwashing occurs when a company makes significant efforts to present itself as sustainable through its advertising and marketing strategies. However, the problem lies in the fact that these companies deceive their customers into believing that their actions have a lesser negative impact on the environment than they actually do. Many companies put on a facade and pretend to care about minimizing their environmental footprint, but in reality, it's all a charade.

Greenwashing is not only misleading and destructive, but it is also offensive to those who genuinely strive to make a positive difference. The unfortunate truth is that companies employ greenwashing tactics solely to boost their sales, without any genuine intention of changing their business practices to benefit the environment. Numerous examples of greenwashing can be found if one keeps a vigilant eye out.


The Harmful Effects of Greenwashing

Misleading the Consumer

Let's face it, not everyone has the time or means to conduct extensive research. As human beings, we tend to trust what we see and read, without assuming that everyone is trying to deceive us. Taking things at face value becomes a common practice, especially when established publications and renowned companies are involved. These companies excel at presenting themselves as unbiased and factual, but the reality is far from it. Marketers have become adept at masking the truth.

Through clever wordplay and nuanced messaging, companies can take advantage of freedom of speech laws. As long as they don't make specific claims that can be quantified, they are free to suggest that their products are sustainable without providing concrete evidence. Well-intentioned consumers often spend their money on brands that don't deserve their support. Consequently, these consumers hold smaller, more ethically sustainable businesses to the same standards as the greenwashing corporate giants. This creates confusion among conscious consumers and makes it nearly impossible for genuinely sustainable enterprises to compete. This brings us to the second point: the harm that greenwashing inflicts on the environment and the fashion industry.

Harming the Environment and the Industry

Greenwashing diverts resources from genuinely sustainable brands. The money that could have been invested in environmentally friendly initiatives ends up lining the pockets of greedy corporate executives. Unsuspecting shoppers believe they are contributing to the advancement of sustainable fashion, but in reality, their money goes directly into a system that perpetuates unethical and unsustainable practices. As a result, environmental initiatives and small businesses lose out on funding, while corporations reap the rewards.

To make matters worse, greenwashing conditions consumers to expect a certain type of customer experience that few genuinely green companies can provide. Small sustainable businesses, like Liv&Grace, lack the millions or billions of dollars in funding and access to expensive technology that larger corporations possess. As a result, much of the work falls on small teams who cannot possibly deliver all the perks that most shoppers expect nowadays, such as free international shipping, 24/7 customer support, next-day delivery, and free returns, among others. Greenwashing perpetuates overconsumption and toxic corporate behavior, leading to detrimental consequences for the fashion industry. If we genuinely want to help the environment, we must educate ourselves to make informed shopping decisions and not fall for the tricks of these companies.

Change Requires Action, Not Empty Promises

At Liv&Grace, we are truly committed to protecting the environment. That's why we ensure that everything we offer aligns with our philosophy. We work directly with independent designers and exclusively sell vegan and sustainable items on our platform. Moreover, we are supported by the same entities that created the Anambas Foundation. Although our proceeds do not go directly to Anambas, supporting projects and marketplaces like ours contributes to funding future green initiatives. Our success serves as an incentive to continue building sustainable businesses. Sustainability goes beyond merely buying from companies that promise to plant trees; it involves investing in a system that will continually evolve without causing harm to the planet and its inhabitants.

What to Watch Out for When Shopping

In 2021, published an article titled "10 Companies and Corporations Called Out for Greenwashing." This article provides an excellent overview of what greenwashing looks like in various forms. We recommend reading it to gain a better and more comprehensive understanding. You might be surprised to see some of the corporations listed there.

Beware of Companies Too Big to Fail

Think of companies like Amazon, PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, and others of that magnitude. These companies often require vast amounts of land, natural resources, and human labor. Consequently, many of them leverage their power and exploit workers to maintain tight profit margins. While greenwashing is typically associated with a company's environmental harm, at Liv&Grace, we take a holistic view. Environmental health and human health are intricately linked. Therefore, it is impossible to discuss one without considering the other.

Be Wary of Ambiguous and Vague Claims

Pay attention to companies that use ambiguous language, vagueness, and exaggeration of minor details. Language holds immense power, and marketers know how to manipulate it. Words like "clean," "natural," and even "vegan" can be used ambiguously to lead customers into believing they are supporting a sustainable company. Poorly explained concepts only lead to confusion. For instance, the term "natural" is highly misleading and holds no legal weight. Just because something is natural doesn't necessarily mean it is beneficial.

Don't Be Fooled by Minimal Efforts Portrayed as Significant

Some companies jump on the sustainability bandwagon and make minor changes, which is a positive step. However, the problem arises when these companies exaggerate these minor improvements and present them as significant efforts. Meanwhile, the rest of their business remains unchanged, and they continue polluting as usual. Additionally, it's worth noting that products made from plastic, petroleum, or styrofoam can be vegan, but that doesn't mean they are healthy for you or the planet. Check out GoodOnYou's article on greenwashing examples to see how fast fashion brands like H&M and Shein deceive their customers.

Don't Settle for the Minimum and Expect Rewards

Lastly, be vigilant for lies. Environmental regulations require companies to meet specific minimum standards to conduct their activities. Some companies take advantage of this and, once they fulfill these requirements, market their products as "environmentally friendly," even though they only comply with what the law mandates. This tactic is prevalent across many industries. Apply critical thinking skills when evaluating a brand.

How to Avoid Greenwashing

Here's a summary of the information mentioned above:

Be cautious of products with generic claims like "100% natural" or "environmentally friendly" without providing specific information on how or why. Avoid products that make irrelevant claims, such as being "CFC-free" (CFCs were banned over 20 years ago). Look for seals or certifications from recognized, independent third parties that specialize in validating green claims. Demand transparency from companies. They should be open and honest about their efforts, including acknowledging their mistakes. Beware of brands that claim to be flawless. Remember, if something seems too good to be true, it likely is. Creating fashionable items incurs costs in terms of resources and time. Therefore, if something appears cheap, it's usually because it cuts corners somewhere along the supply chain, whether through unethical practices, unsustainable sourcing, or illegal activities. Don't be swayed by a green logo alone. It doesn't guarantee sustainability. Don't focus solely on one small action of a company. If a company highlights one or two green initiatives, it often indicates that everything else they do is environmentally detrimental. Distinguish between green marketing and greenwashing. Green marketing informs consumers, while greenwashing deceives them. Green marketing promotes genuinely green products and services.