Today I wanted to make you aware of a term called greenwashing. It’s an important trend for all of us to know about; especially if you are trying to go green. The idea behind greenwashing is that companies can take advantage of the green consumer by slapping an “all natural” label on products without really providing a green product.
One example of a product line getting greenwashed is Burt’s Bee’s. Burt sold his company several years ago to Clorox. Burt was a hippie through and through, and built a brand that stood for his ideals from the ground up. He made a great product that spoke strongly to his market and made millions because of it. I was managing a yoga gift shop at the time, and I watched the Burt’s Bees product line change drastically for the worse after Clorox purchased the brand. Let me just say that we stopped carrying it within a year because the only thing that stayed the same was the packaging.
Greenwashing happens in many ways, and it happens a lot. Sometimes it is blatantly unethical marketing. Sometimes executives simply don’t understand what going green means. Regardless, the bottom line is that the scope and extent of greenwashing puts serious distrust into the process of purchasing green products. People looking for healthier options believe they have a right to know about the ingredients in the foods they eat and in the personal care products they put onto their bodies. They also believe that there need to be standards upheld in the definitions of the words used, such as natural, organic, and ethically sourced. They want to trust that their ideals and ethics are shared by the companies they purchase from.
Since the practice of greenwashing strikes deep into the ideals of green consumers you can guess that there is some activism in response. Two issues that are being battled in courts right now are truth in labeling, and legally defined standards for terms like ‘organic.’ Voices for the green movement are fighting for structure so that the muddy terminology can be cleaned up, making greenwashing more difficult to do. The most interesting, and to me scary, legal battles happening right now are the truth in labeling ones. Recently California voted no on a proposition to force GMO foods to be labeled as such. Why would special interests spend millions to keep the fact that we are buying products that include GMO foods hidden? It makes me wonder, “Would we buy their products if we knew the whole truth about how they were made, packaged, and their ingredients?”
And so the issue is trust and how much energy you are going to devote to making sure your products are delivering to your standards. Retailers all have buyers and policies about how they choose their products. One of the best ways to make the process easy is to find a retailer that you can trust and let them do the research for you. However, you need to trust the retailer and pay attention to what products they have on their shelves. Back To Bliss has very stringent product requirements on personal care items, however there are others that are even more strict than us.
The bottom line on the issue is that if you are one of those green consumers, you need to decide how passionate about it you are, because when it comes to green, the path is pretty gray.