Eco-seals and logos are everywhere. They wink at us from shelves and counters, trying to get our attention. Unfortunately, many companies use them to “greenwash” their images and products. They want us to think their products are a heathier, environmentally conscious choice. It’s difficult to tell which are reliable and which are simply self-promoting.
So, What Exactly is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing is an environmental claim that is not confirmed, meaningless, or a distraction. It is the deceptive use of green marketing to create and promote a misleading image that a company’s policies, practices, products or services are healthy or environmentally friendly.
Is Greenwashing Really That Bad?
Yes. It creates mistrust of green, organic claims causing people to question if organic/natural products are worth the extra money, destroying the very market it is profiting from. But the bigger crime is that it sabotages the whole environmental movement.
As the need and desire for healthier, environmentally sustainable products has grown so has the abuse of greenwashing. Compounded by weak, outdated marketing guidelinesand lax regulatory agency enforcement, there’s been a tidal wave of eco seals and logos. Regulators around the world are trying to keep up. We can help by not rewarding companies with our money and loyalty who are pulling the green wool over our eyes.
Oh Great, One More Thing to Do!
I don’t know about you, but it angers me that nowadays it seems you need to be well informed on everything, even knowing where to get information you can trust. It’s difficult and time consuming. Companies that greenwash know and count on this fact.
We can learn how to spot offenders and not reward them by giving them our hard earned money.
Be on the Lookout
- False Logos and Seals: impostersthat look similar to the real ones.Look for missing elements. Some of them are quite clever. Commonly faked are graphics of a bunny with the words cruelty-free seeking to play off of the legitimate PETA and CCIC Leaping Bunny Program. Close but no cigar!
- Out and Out Lies: using logos and seals they are not licensed or permitted to use. No conscience!
- Meaninglessness: a made-up irrelevant logo or seal claiming not to contain an ingredient that has been banned for years. Believe it or not this happens more than you think!
- Missing Seal: the most common offense is using the word “organic”. Look for the USDA organic seal. Simply using the word organic or some organic ingredients doesn’t make it organic!
- Green by Association: Using an ingredient’s or product’s legitimate logo or seal when referring to that ingredient or product on their own website. Hoping the green rubs off!
Certifications: They Come in Different Shapes and Sizes
These are the best! An independent third-party organization strictly in the business of certifying, verifies that the company has meet and satisfied meaningful standards.
Are developed and marketed by industry associations.
Company owned organizations. They come up with their own standards, fulfill them and reward themselves with their own logo.
Cradle-to-grave looks at the product’s entire life.
Single impact looks only at one single environmental impact.
- Where does the certification comes from? Is it a first, second, or third-party certification?
- Does it make sense?
- Don’t be afraid to ask companies/salespersons for proof of their claims.
- Is the Logo or seal legitimate? Check and see. Report offenders and their fake usage to the organization that it is supposed belong to.
Making It Easier
Launched in 2007, Ecolabel Index collects and provides data on ecolabels globally, increasing transparency and helping people to be more informed.It’s the only global source for information on ecolabels and green product standards. The Index currently lists data (including photos for easy identification) for 463 labels and seals. Their goal is to make it easier for people to make better informed greener choices. Super helpful, free and easy to use.
To Name a Few
USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) regulates the standards for any farm, wild crop harvesting, or handling operation that wants to sell an agricultural product as organically produced. It also regulates and monitors the production of any product that calls itself organic. Organic is a labeling term that indicates that the food or other agricultural product has been produced through approved methods. These methods integrate cultural, biological, and mechanical practices that foster cycling of resources, promote ecological balance, and conserve biodiversity.
The USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) has created strict regulations that ensure finished products meet the USDA organic standards. The NOP prohibits the use of harmful toxins such as aluminum, EDTA, GMOs, nanoparticles, petrochemicals, parabens, synthetic colors or fragrances, propylene glycol, or Triclosan.
Based in France, Ecocert specializes in the certification of organic agricultural products. Its standards are verified by an independent third-party organization.
Demeter Biodynamic is a certifying body that certifies both farms and finished products. All finished products must comply with and are subject to strict and comprehensive verification processes independent from the Demeter Biodynamic Agricultural certification. Like the USDA’s NOP, just because a farm is certified by Demeter doesn’t mean that the finished product is certified. Mandating that the products themselves are certified prevents companies from adding non-compliant ingredients after the fact to their skin and body care products.
Look for it on coffee, tea, chocolate, fruit juice, wood and paper products, personal care products and more.
From their website: “The Rainforest Alliance Certified™ seal ensures that a product comes from a farm or forest operation that meets comprehensive standards that protect the environment and promote the rights and well-being of workers, their families and communities”.
Leaping Bunny Program(The Coalition for Consumer Information on Cosmetics)
CCIC is a non-profit organization dedicated to ending animal cruelty in the production of cosmetics and consumer products. Companies that are certified through (CCIC) Leaping Bunny Programmust sign a declaration stating it has eliminated animal testing from all stages of their products developmentIn addition they must have all of their raw ingredient suppliers sign their own independent declarations stating that none of the ingredients that said company purchases have been tested on animals. In order to maintain certification status, the company must annually recommit, update its suppliers’information and is subject to an annual audit.
PETA is an international nonprofit charitable organization that is dedicated to establishing and defending the rights of all animals. It operates under the simple principle that animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, or use for entertainment. PETA educates policymakers and the public about animal abuse and promotes humane treatment of animals.
Taken from PETA’s website: The very heart of all of PETA’s actions is the idea that it is the right of all beings—human and nonhuman alike—to be free from harm.
When a product carries the FAIRTRADE Certification Mark, it means the producers and traders have met Fairtrade Standards. These standards include social, environmental and economic criteria, as well as progress requirements and terms of trade. They are designed to enable sustainable development and support small-scale producers and agricultural workers in the poorest countries, promoting opportunities to improve their lives and invest in their future.
Thank you for Making a Conscious Choice