Is it greenwash, or is it genuine?
I don’t know about you, but I find some of the labelling on products quite confusing these days.
The science around all things eco and sustainable is evolving so fast it’s almost impossible to stay up to date with the latest standards.
And then there is the phenomenon of greenwashing: deceptive marketing designed to convince consumers a product is good for the environment but is in fact just a half-truth, exaggeration or complete fabrication, aimed to make a profit.
So how do you know if the claims on a product are genuine or greenwash?
According to Choice Online, if you want to avoid greenwash, there are a few things you can look for to minimise the risk of getting swept up in a manufacturer’s marketing ploy:
Avoid distractions. That recyclable or biodegradable packet with gorgeous green pictures and impressive logos may look convincing, but could it be distracting you from what’s inside? Think about the impact on the environment – of the product as well as its packaging.
Check the list of ingredients on a product. Are most of the ingredients written in plain English or is it an endless list of dazzling ‘scientific’ words and terms?
Does the product adhere to a relevant Australian or international standard? Has it been independently verified and certified?
Is there any evidence that the whole lifecycle of the product is handled with care?
Watch out for vagueness. If the green claim is true, then surely it can be specific and precise, and the manufacturer can provide evidence.
And on that last note: how easy is it to contact the manufacturer for more information? If they make it near impossible for you to verify their claims, be suspicious Sherlock!
So, what labels can you trust?
Here are some of the more commonly used third party certifications and labels that should give you confidence as a consumer.
I found these labels on the Ecolabel Index for Australia – a good source for information on what is being certified.
ACO Certification Ltd (used to be called Australian Certified Organic) is Australia’s largest certifier for organic and biodynamic produce. ACO provides certification services to operators from all sectors of the organic industry. Certification ensures compliance with national and international production standards and allows trace back of all products to their origin.
Australian Forest Certification Scheme – independent, third-party certification that timber or wood-based products are derived from sustainably managed forests
Best Management Practices Cotton – the Australian cotton industry’s guide for growing cotton in harmony with our natural environment. This label is a consumer guarantee that the branded textile product they are buying is made of Australian cotton grown under Best Management Practices by growers who care for our environment.
Dolphin Safe / Dolphin Friendly - the Earth Island Institute monitors tuna companies around the world to ensure the tuna is caught by methods that do not harm dolphins and protect the marine ecosystem.
Most of us would be familiar with this one. the Energy Rating Label can be found on your electrical appliances and provides a rating on energy efficiency. The more stars the more energy efficient your purchase.
The Fairtrade label shows consumers that the product they’re buying provides a better deal to farmers and workers. Fairtrade reduces poverty in developing countries and brings about change by creating opportunities for people to improve their lives and invest in their future.
To quote the GOTS website: “the Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS) is the world’s leading processing standard for textiles made form organic fibres. It defines high-level environmental criteria along the entire organic textiles supply chain and requires compliance with social criteria as well.”
GreenPower is a national accreditation program that sets stringent environmental and reporting standards for renewable electricity products offered by energy suppliers to households and businesses in Australia.
The Australian Bioplastics Association verify and certify a product’s ability to be home compostable. Only bioplastics carrying this logo can be composted in your compost bin or heap at home. Other compostable bioplastics can only be composted in industrial facilities. Look for this logo on the pack
The Orangutan Alliance International Palm Oil Free Certification Program is a program for manufacturers, brands and retailers to certify that no palm oil or derivatives are used in approved products.
Urthly Organics products are Orangutan Alliance certified.
The Rainforest Alliance Certified™ label shows that a product was grown and made adhering to a strict set of standards to protect the environment and provide a better deal to the workers and their families and communities.
UTZ certified products have been made with fairness and transparency, supporting people, planet and profit. The standard operates through two sets of guidelines – the Code of Conduct (which covers the growing and harvesting of the product), and the Chain of Custody (which covers the process from farm to shop shelves).
The WELS water rating label is like the energy rating label. The more stars on a product, the more water-efficient it is. This helps consumers make better choices – for the environment, but also for their household budget.
Sources used for this blog:
Choice online, Bioplastics Association of Australia, Eco Label Index, GOTS website, UTZ website, ACO Pty Ltd website.
Image of maze by Rafif Prawira on Unsplash. Image of green wall Bekkie Bekks on Unsplash.