Yes and no, sustainability depends on many factors, for example:

  • the method you use to measure if a product can be sustainable or not
  • the definition you have of “sustainable”
  • the definition a shop has of “sustainable”
  • whether it is only for advertisement purposes or if the wellbeing of people in relation to the environment truly is part of a company’s core values.

But among the many factors, we argue that the business intention, is something that can tell us if a product is “sustainable” or not.

So, in order the answer this article’s question we will be posting more articles to comprehend better this important topic, but to begin, we decided to tackle a concept that is damaging the efforts of consumers to learn more about sustainability: greenwashing.

What is greenwashing?

Greenwashing is a marketing strategy.
Since the world is getting more and more conscious about environmental issues, a lot of businesses are trying to acquire more customers by telling their clients, that they care about the environment.

Brands change their packaging, talk about sustainability in their social media or invest on changing processes to make them less harmful to the environment. However, many of these actions only have the intention to sell more and to sell to those of us who want to do something about the environment. Therefore, when a company uses the “sustainable” ideals only to sell more, it is lying to the customer; that is called “greenwashing”.

It is important to say that many companies do strive for having the least environmental impact. But the ones who are honest about sustainability know that, not harming the environment is not really possible.

As Trevor Zink & Roland Geyer say, “it’s important to understand the limitations of the popular idea that products themselves can be green.” Because the creation of any product or service, requires energy, materials and, in general, resources from the environment. So, there is no product or service that has zero environmental impact.

Therefore, we should be careful when we think that a “sustainable” product is immediately better than its old “not sustainable” version. The product in itself does not change the system we live in. For example, buying a refurbished device might be better than changing your phone for the latest version, however only the pollution that its shipping costs to the environment; plus the energy consumption that this phone has, is using up the environment. So, it is not about the product, it is about the system

But how do we spot those companies that really care about the environment and who are not only creating products to sell, but who want to change the system that harms the environment?

How to spot greenwashing and
what to do about it?

There are plenty of articles with tips and ways to spot greenwashing, you can find this information and apply some of the advised action. For now, in this article, we want to empower you to know that the answer is within you. Here is what we mean:

If you don’t have the time to check each detail about the (un)sustainable activities of a company, or to see if they have the famous labels that “certify” sustainability; or to make exhaustive research before buying a product that you need urgently. We recommend you check your intuition and knowledge of life. Think of the effort that it requires for that specific company, to create a product, if they sell only online or at a shop, both need energy to survive, think of the speed they offer you and know that this probably means more energy consumption from the planet.

But most of all, read between the lines from the content they share on their social media or advertisement. Do you feel it is honest? Do you truly believe the image they sell you? or you can see that the real intention behind it is just to sell more?

Trust that voice that always tells you the truth and protects you from scams. Once you have spotted a greenwashing company or campaign, decide if you want to support that company, your choice matters, after all it is your money, they cannot choose for you.

Other questions we will be answering:

How to measure the sustainability of a product?

Should I buy sustainable or eco-friendly products?