Greenwashing: Is it green, or is it painted green?

Today consumers are more eco-conscious than ever, so it is an easy thing for companies to tout the good things that they do for the environment. However, are companies really green, or are they only painted green? That sometimes is not a very hard question to answer if you only dig below the surface of the company. At times though, this is a harder question to answer as companies get better at hiding some of their practices, and they get smarter with the way they word their advertising. Then again how do you tell if companies are actually green, or if they are only greenwashing?

Here is a quick list that might make it easier for you to decide if it is green, or if it is only painted green.

Painted Green:

Nothing to support claim: All products with claims about being eco-friendly or pollution free, should prove it somehow, they should have evidence to back up that claim.

Nature scenes?: Some companies rely on green by association. If the ads show products in the nature, such as a car driving through the rain forest or something like that, then make sure the company is actually being truthful.

Check for an asterisk: Often advertising highlighting the environmental benefits of a product showcase facts and figures. Sometimes those facts and figures have asterisks next to them that reference a minor study, or obscure research. Look those studies up for yourself to verify they are accurate and truthful.

Green innovation actually small: Often times companies will highlight the research into green areas such as renewable energy, or cleaning water supplies. However, when you actually look into the company a minuscule part of their business is actually getting into these fields.

Different colored logo or packaging: Did the company simply only change the color of their logo from what it used to be to a green logo? A lot of the times companies do this to give the impression that they are either going green, or are a green company, when in fact they haven’t changed anything.

Too good to be true: Always remember the old phrase, if it sounds too good to be true than it probably is. If something sounds so amazing that it can’t be true, then look it up and verify it for yourself.


Who are their friends?: Is the company in a partnership with an Non Governmental Organization (NGO) that does good things for the world? If so then chances are more likely that the company is trying to honestly become more environmentally conscious and more socially conscious depending on what that NGO represents. Even if the NGO is not that powerful it still shows that the company is stepping in the right direction.

They put their money where their mouth is: If you can tell that the company is actually doing what they say they are doing, then that is a good sign.

They set lofty goals: Company’s that set goals that they would like to achieve for the environment, or for society as a whole often are the most well-intentioned. Such as Interface Global’s goal that is part of their vision statement. “To be the first company that, by its deeds, shows the entire industrial world what sustainability is in all its dimensions: People, process, product, place and profits — by 2020 — and in doing so we will become restorative through the power of influence (”

They are transparent: Companies that are proud of what they are doing for society or for the environment, and are truly trying to become more sustainable, will make it very easy for you to find information about them out. They will go to great lengths not to hide who they are or what they stand for. Companies that are simply greenwashing will make it hard for a consumer to find out about their stances on things.

This list of how you can and cannot tell if a company is truly caring for the environment and moving towards sustainability, is certainly not an entire list. There are many ways that you can verify if a company is being truthful with their consumers or not. It is a consumers responsibility to make sure that they look into a company before simply doing what the advertising is telling them to do. Be wise consumers, and be mindful of the products you are buying. And always ask yourself, is it green, or is it painted green?


The Green Guerilla