What is greenwashing?
Greenwashing is a term used to describe marketing or public relations strategies used by an organization to portray itself as ecologically responsible. It's a way of conveying distorted information in order to appear environmentally and/or socially responsible to the public. The term is broken down into green and washing.
A growing phenomenon
Given the growing public awareness of the need to protect the environment, and the inadequate use of human resources, this is a phenomenon that emerged some twenty years ago, and is growing all the time. Vigilance is therefore required to ensure that your choices match your intentions.
Some companies have understood the consumer craze for eco-friendly products and have jumped on the opportunity. To do so, they promote ecological virtues in their communications, and misleadingly label their products as environmentally friendly and ethically sound. They even go so far as to openly mislead consumers about the true environmental and social added value of the company, brand or product.
Companies that practice greenwashing see environmental protection as primarily a profit-making fad, rather than a responsibility to preserve resources and the common natural heritage.
There are also some great, consistent and effective initiatives. We invite you to make sure your purchases are in line with your intentions to protect the environment and your health, by doing the appropriate research on the products you're looking for.
Items to be evaluated
Compromise: Beware of those who emphasize certain environmental elements while ignoring others. It's a question of assessing whether the environmental benefits are not outweighed by the negative effects, and choosing the compromise that seems most acceptable to us, with full knowledge of the facts.
Lack of proof: Look for company information and third-party certification.
Beware of vagueness: A company can boast about the natural components of its products. However, heavy metals such as lead and mercury are entirely natural, but toxic to the environment and human health.
Impertinence: Some substances are prohibited by law. However, some companies indicate their absence on their labels and in their advertising in order to improve their image.
The lesser of 2 evils: In reality, since nothing is perfect when it comes to ecological choices, and human beings will always have an impact on the environment, the choice between 2 evils is correct. However, some people use it to divert your attention from more serious environmental and social impacts. This would be the case, for example, with fuel-efficient sports utility vehicles.
Lying: Yes, some companies go so far as to lie, using false information based on misleading or non-existent studies. We all have access to a phenomenal amount of information, and it's sometimes easy to find out using the Internet.
Misleading green labelling: Some companies falsely claim to be certified by an environmental or social organization. Many of the third parties in question have websites where you can validate this information.
What about eco-responsible clothing?
When it comes to clothing made from organic textiles, there are two types of certification. The first is for certified organic raw materials. There are many certifiers of organic raw materials, and the logo will vary according to the country in which the products are sold. The general criteria for organic textiles are absence of chemicals and GMOs, and traceability throughout the supply chain.
The second type of certification concerns the finished product, the garment. Several certifiers have joined the Global Organic Textile Standards (GOTS) initiative, a worldwide harmonization of organic textile processing standards. Among other things, GOTS guarantees that at least 95% of fibers come from certified organic cultivation, that biodegradable products are used in garment processing, that dyes are natural or free of heavy metals, that fabric shrinkage is mechanical or thermal, and that wastewater treatment is environmentally friendly.
Additional links :
Equiterre has produced a guide to eco-responsible clothing, which you can find here.
Several articles and reports have been put forward concerning greenwashing. You can view them here: H et M le côté obscure part 1 and part 2 and La nouvelle tendance pour vendre? Green marketing!