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Greenwashing Marketing: What Is It?

picture of an earth with hands underneath: we've got the whole world in our hands

What is Greenwashing Marketing?

Greenwashing marketing is where businesses tell their audience that their brand is eco-friendly, while making unsustainable environmental choices. It’s not great.

This should not be confused with green marketing, where businesses promote a product or service by emphasising how they’ve made eco-friendly decisions and still produced a great product. Think Tala, who use offcuts and recycled materials to make sportswear.

Though environmentally friendly practices may feel like a modern day craze, ‘greenwashing’ was first coined by Jay Westerveld in 1986.

Westerveld watched luxury hotels expand by cutting down natural habitats, while placing ‘please reuse your towels’ signs in bathrooms to ‘save’ the same local environment.

Many brands greenwash their marketing materials, including H&M and Nestlé.

Nestlé Waters Canada claimed bottled water was “the most environmentally responsible consumer product in the world”, while Ice River Springs recently claimed bottled water was a “sustainable” product.

That’s not all! Nestlé’s total plastics packaging usage in 2019 was 1.5 million tons, using only two percent recycled plastic.

At H&M, only 35% of the clothing placed in their in-store recycling bins is recycled, while their sustainability report shows only 0.7% of their clothing material is sourced from recycled backgrounds.

This comes from a retailer who actively promote a ‘Conscious’ collection.

photo of lake with rubbish sat at side of lake

So, How Do We Eliminate Greenwashing Marketing Practices?

Consumers are actively searching for brands that genuinely believe in sustainability.

In fact, 83% of consumers believe it is ‘important’ or ‘extremely important’ for companies to design reusable or recyclable products.

Interestingly, 72% of people now purchase more eco-friendly products now than they did five years ago.

For this trend to continue, brands need to stop greenwashing their marketing output. As consumers, we need to support businesses who actively make sustainable, eco-positive decisions.

Businesses who act sustainably will take notice of their marketing processes in every facet:

They will check paper stock origins to ensure sustainable marketing via print newspapers/leaflets.

Sustainable businesses will align with other organisations who have similar goals.

Likewise, brands should focus on finding ethical funding sources.

Finally, sustainable brands should treat their employees fairly, and promote this.

There is no planet B.

Tailor-Made Media is Yorkshire’s first sustainable marketing agency. Current and former clients include the United Nations, Bright Green Plastics and YorwasteIf your need help in repositioning your brand to be more sustainable, get in touch today.