How to Know if the Brands You’re Supporting Are Really Sustainable

With increased attention on environmental sustainability, you might be more conscious of the brands you support and how those brands are either contributing to, or mitigating against the global climate crisis. Many brands are working to make changes to their operations and implement sustainable practices into their overall company strategy. The market of sustainable shoppers is rapidly growing with Nielson predicting $150 billion to be spent on sustainable consumer packaged goods by 2021.

With that growth, it is no surprise that many brands are also working to market their efforts to make a positive impact on the environment in an effort to capture the loyalty of this growing market segment. Many companies create truly sustainable products or have environmentally friendly production practices. 

However, some companies leverage green jargon to deceive conscious consumers into purchasing a product with the perception that the brand is eco-friendly, when the company is taking no legitimate action to improve the environment – this practice is called greenwashing. 

So how do consumers spot the difference and avoid companies that are all talk when it comes to doing good for the earth? Here are few tips to keep in mind while shopping:

  1. Avoid vague language

One way to spot greenwashing is by the presence of vague or broad terminology. This type of language leaves much room for interpretation on the consumer. While some claims might be legitimate, many brands use this tactic to appease conscious consumers without having to provide proof of their claims. Some catch-all terms to look at with a critical eye: socially responsible, eco-friendly, bioplastic, green or recycled content. 

  1. Watch out for irrelevant claims

Another tactic is for a brand to point out certain truthful features of a product that might not be relevant to consumers trying to make a decision on products that are better for the environment. For example, recyclable packaging is only beneficial for the environment if the consumer properly recycles it. This claim leaves the responsibility of sustainability entirely in the hands of the consumer. 

  1. Look for certifications

The best way to avoid greenwashed products is through supporting transparent brands that provide detailed information about their sustainability efforts on their company website (or easily accessible elsewhere). Many of these companies will have gone the extra mile to obtain legitimate third party certifications, assessments or awards. A few notable labels include: our IMPACT COLLECTIVE seals, Fairtrade, The EPA’s SaferChoice, and B Corporation Certification.  

There are many ways for consumers to be vigilant while shopping and feel empowered to choose environmentally conscious products. By being critical of ambiguous language, looking for legitimate 3rd party certifications, and determining the end responsibility of sustainability, consumers can avoid being “greenwashed” and make a difference with their dollars by supporting brands that are being socially responsible.