Greenwashing uses misleading messages to create an environmentally responsible and sustainable image to the consumer, despite the fact that the company is taking irrelevant measures in this regard.
Although this practice is associated with marketing, the reality is that greenwashing is not limited only to promotional activity, since its origin comes from deeper aspects within the organization, such as the management system, processes and different activities carried out by the company, so this activity has a detrimental impact on the economy and the environment, since it makes it impossible for consumers to choose products that are truly sustainable.
To understand the magnitude of the problem, it is necessary to know some figures. In 2021, a European Commission report focused on greenwashing concluded that "42% of cases of companies with online advertisements make exaggerated, false or misleading claims about their status as a "sustainable company or brand." The report also states that in 59% of cases, no easily verifiable evidence is provided to back up the company's claims, while in more than half of the cases, they do not provide sufficient information for consumers to assess the accuracy of sustainability claims.
The situation of greenwashing in the midst of the climate crisis is evidence of the lack of regulations on the subject, which the European Union intends to change with the proposed amendment of the Unfair Commercial Practices Directive, including five novel elements that will prevent companies from claiming to be "green" or "sustainable" for promotional purposes only.
42% of the cases of companies with online advertisements present exaggerated, false or misleading claims
What measures will you take to prevent greenwashing?
The measures to prevent and condemn greenwashing include the prohibition of "vague environmental claims", penalizing companies that incur in advertising that unsubstantiatedly link products with "excellent environmental performance" or the erroneous use of labels such as "eco" and "green".
In addition, it seeks to include as an unfair practice, selling under the attribution that a product is sustainable when it only contains a particular element that can be considered as such, and will prevent the display of sustainability labels if the product or service does not have independent verification.
It should be noted that it also seeks to expand the list of characteristics with which traders cannot mislead consumers, including the environmental and social impact that is or has been generated, durability and repairability. At the same time, it is proposed to add to the list of misleading practices the fact of declaring favorable environmental behavior in the future, since for this, clear and verifiable goals, commitments and objectives must be specified.
Why are these measures being implemented now?
Such measures would be in line with the "European Green Pact", which seeks to transform the economic model of the EU, to convert the linear economy into a circular model to curb and mitigate the climate crisis, so this reform would be a significant step for sustainability and circularity become pillars of all items marketed and designed to be distributed in the EU market.
Although the reform entered into discussion a few days ago, carrying it out would allow consumers to have more and better information about the sustainable value of the products they consume, this would force large companies and even entire industries to implement measures that are actually more sustainable, for example, making more durable products repairable, reusable and recyclable. Consequently, competition will be fostered with a new approach, where companies will compete to create more environmentally sustainable products while reducing their negative impact on the environment.
So all those brands that have used greenwashing to increase their sales by misleading consumers and promoting false sustainability will have to make decisions based on two options:
discontinue the products that are using greenwashing, or
reformulate the production of these products so that they really comply with the promotional premises.
Join the change!