Announcing your company is “green” is a great way to get into the public’s eye. This is because a vast portion of consumers are more eco-conscious nowadays, and they’ll spend more money with eco-friendly businesses. This is why many will justify greenwashing.
And no, it’s not about adding a new coat of paint to your fence to make it match the lawn.
It’s an actual practice that has a fraudulent backbone, and may even lead to lawsuits.
What is Greenwashing a Business?
The term, “greenwashing,” means promoting a sustainable and eco-friendly business contrary to an organization’s actions. It’s meant to dupe consumers into thinking they are buying from a legitimately “green” business.
In many instances, this is done through fraudulent claims, fake reviews, and/or outright lying about various practices.
Practices like this are more common than you might think. And it’s all because nearly three-quarters of Millennials will pay more for sustainability.
Why is this important? Because more than $600 billion is spent by Millennials every year in the United States alone.
So, if you want to jump on the gravy-train of the future when it comes to making money, being sustainable is where it’s at. This is why many businesses practice greenwashing…to appease the next generation of heavy consumers.
How to Avoid Being Labeled as “Greenwashing”
If social media has taught us anything, it’s that negative experiences with brands will easily go super-viral. The end result is having a severe backlash of comments, boycotts, and vitriol spewed your way.
And while you might make a buck today by greenwashing your business, the long-term effects are often not worth the practice.
So, what can you do to avoid greenwashing your company?
1. Address Actual Concerns from Your Customers
First off, address the actual concerns of consumers when it comes to your business. If you have a restaurant that uses a lot of plastic wear, you can’t slap solar panels on your roof and say you “support the environment.”
This is because plastic pollution is rampant across the entire globe. There’s even a patch of garbage in the Pacific Ocean including many of these plastic goods weighing an estimated 80,000 tonnes.
Instead, that restaurant could invest in reducing its impact by offering biodegradable utensils and packaging for take-out.
I personally know of one restaurant that uses its old oil as a biofuel to provide some of its power needs.
2. Don’t Overly Embellish Green Practices
This kind of goes hand-in-hand with the above point. If you change your bulbs to LEDs, it’s not an incredible milestone that is going to draw in the consumer.
Many companies put forth a green front with even the smallest of changes to gain traction with consumers.
So what, you have a recycling bin. Yay!
Green companies like GreenGeeks actually pay three times their power bill to offset electricity consumption on the grid. When you consider how much cash it takes to maintain just one data center, that’s an awful lot of money.
It’s OK to mention the small things you do. Because eventually, they’ll add up. But don’t make the smallest changes sound like some kind of earth-shattering breakthrough on your behalf.
3. Dump the Fake Endorsements
A lot of companies buy fake reviews or write up endorsements themselves. This is why I never trust testimonials. As a freelance writer, I’ve had to write these for certain clients. So, I do know how fake many of them are.
Not to mention one time I stumbled across a testimonial that featured a stock photo that I’ve seen in the past.
Because the Internet is what it is, it won’t take long for consumers to see how your testimonials are greenwashing the business.
Besides, if you have an honest and transparent company, you will save money from paying writers like myself to fake it for you.
4. Avoid Using Advanced Terminology
Some business owners obfuscate the facts by using incredibly advanced terminology to hide the fact they’re not really doing much.
Language is a funny thing, and when you start adding scientific terms, it makes you sound larger than life. That is unless someone points out the problems and breaks down exactly what you said in a Facebook post.
If you truly are working towards a green business, making it easy to absorb for the common person is ideal. This is why I try to keep my Flesch Reading Ease Score about 70 in most cases.
5. Cite Your Claims!
If your business makes a certain positive impact on the environment, provide easy-to-read data and facts.
For example, let’s take that restaurant example I made earlier. If you replace all the plastic utensils with AirCarbon dissolvable eating ware, calculate how much plastic is saved from reaching the environment.
This can be done by calculating how much each piece weighs, times the amount of plastic utensils you’ve given out to customers over a specific time frame.
It’s basic math, actually.
But, don’t just pull some random facts or numbers out of thin air because you “believe” they are correct.
No, windmills don’t cause cancer.
6. Be Truthful of Your Practices
This point goes along the lines of embellishing your accomplishments. Consumers today love transparency and being directly connected to the brands they love. Being truthful about business practices will go a very long way.
If you’re taking small steps to promote a green business, set up a blog page and list out each thing you’ve done in a bullet list. Then, update it when something new is added.
When you start a “smoke and mirrors” campaign, people are going to catch on. And when they do, you’ll get hammered on social media.
For example, I don’t claim to be a green activist. I focus more on the practical reasons why anyone would want to live green. And that’s what I stick to. I’m not going to push a false narrative because it’ll get me more clicks to the blog.
Be honest and avoid greenwashing. Your target consumer will become a life-long supporter to drive sales from themselves as well as friends and family.
7. Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is
Lastly, reinvest some of your money to promote a green business practice. It’s not all that difficult and will give you a great talking point.
In fact, the more you give, the more you pique the interest of consumers.
For instance, I fully intend on donating a portion of the money this website makes to various “green” charities. I especially love anything dealing with trees.
Though, I fear I’m a long way from generating any serious amount of revenue.
But my point is that there are plenty of ways to drop a few dollars to support local and global green charities. Find one the is relevant to your business and provide that “wow” factor for consumers.
Most of them are a tax right-off, why not?
Greenwashing is Virtually a Scam
I don’t support any company that practices greenwashing. To me, it’s just as much of a scam as straight-up lying about the product or service. It’s nothing more than a ploy to soak money from the next generation of shoppers.
If you’re going to go green, make sure you’re walking the walk.
Michael has been interested in the practicality of living green for quite some time. He works closely with GreenGeeks Web Hosting as the Content Marketing Team Lead and an author of various articles.