Ethical Issues: 6 Clues That a Company Is Greenwashing

6 Clues That a Company Is Greenwashing

Some companies go above and beyond to care for the environment and the people within it. They employ social procurement initiatives and offer goods and services with social, economic, and environmental benefits. 

However, there are just as many other companies using deceptive marketing tactics – known as “greenwashing” or the “green sheen” – to make it look like they’re environmentally friendly when they’re not. Fortunately, you can tell the difference between genuinely caring companies and clever marketers by looking out for the following clues: 

Selective Disclosure

Companies want to sell as many products as possible, so of course, they’re going to highlight the desirable features and benefits of their products. However, you can sometimes identify greenwashing when they selectively disclose information that paints them in a positive light while ignoring details that don’t. 

For example, a company might advertise light bulbs as being energy-efficient, highlighting this information to consumers while failing to mention that their bulbs contain dangerous substances. 

Lack of Proof

Anyone can claim anything to make themselves look better, and companies are no different. They can say they use organic materials, pay their employees a living wage, or are eco-friendly, but they may not always provide proof. Instead, they expect consumers to take their word for it. 

If you see a business making eco-friendliness claims, seek their certifications and evidence. If they don’t provide them upon request, you don’t have to believe they’re as green as they make themselves out to be. 


Consumers want to buy sustainable products. Companies, realizing they can make more money by being eco-friendly, might decide to make vague statements that have consumers believing they’re more environmentally friendly than they really are. 

The vaguer the statement, the less likely it is that they can be called out for their questionable claims. For example, a business can assert that its ingredients are all-natural, making consumers believe the products are good for them and the planet. In reality, plenty of natural materials and ingredients aren’t good for us, such as asbestos, mercury, ricin, and arsenic.

Best in Class

When a company advertises its products as “best in class,” it’s easy for consumers to assume they are cleaner, greener, and better than their competition. They might then choose those products over others. While a company with such claims might be better than its competitors on some metrics, that doesn’t mean it isn’t harming the environment. It might just be hurting our planet a fraction less than other companies. 


Clues That a Company Is Greenwashing

Some companies are legally required to publish information about a product that might be harmful. However, you can only understand what you’re capable of reading. Knowing this, many crafty marketers use jargon the average consumer doesn’t understand to provide that legally required information. Unless a scientist translates it for you, you might be none the wiser to a product being more harmful than it seems. 

Suggestive Pictures

We associate many colors and pictures with eco-friendly products, like green, yellow, brown, and plant symbols. Our association with these colors and images, rather than words, helps us draw instant, emotive conclusions. 

Companies know this and use it to their advantage. Their products might not be clean and green, and they might not make any claims, but their use of colors can automatically make us assume they are.   

Greenwashing is a growing problem, especially as companies now realize that consumers are willing to pay more for eco-friendly products. By being aware of the most common greenwashing tactics, you’ll better position yourself to avoid falling for their marketing tactics. This will leave you free to purchase genuine eco-friendly goods instead.

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