How to Identify & Avoid Greenwashing in Manufacturing

It’s hard not to notice that the whole world is trying to be more sustainable. Going green is the marketing catchphrase. The movement has impacted nearly every corner of our lives and shows no sign of slowing down. It might be what saves us from growing climatic concerns.

 

Of course, the backbone of marketing is the products that are produced during manufacturing. The concept of being more sustainable and ‘going green’ hasn’t missed this industrial sector either. In fact, many consumers are becoming more and more concerned that their products are not only sustainable once on the shelf, but are actually produced sustainably.

 

In the mad dash to out-green competitors and attract the lion’s share of a growing sustainability-minded customer base, some business leaders are making real strides in becoming more energy-efficient and overall more sustainable. Others, however, may be more interested in claiming to be green without actually making significant alterations to how business is done. It can leave customers feeling betrayed and very confused about how to do their research and who to trust.

 

What is Greenwashing?

This concept of raking in the financial benefits of “being green” without really making an effort to become more sustainable as a company is known as greenwashing. The ultimate goal is to mislead environmentally conscious consumers into purchasing products that are more harmful to the planet than other options. It is a much larger and more significant issue than many of us realize.

 

Part of the reason greenwashing is such a problem is that most consumers are willing to pay more for products they believe to be less damaging to the environment. Although there are certainly some obvious short-term benefits to a greenwashing strategy, it is actually a pretty risky endeavor. Exposure as a company that actively greenwashes customers is a terrible business move that has several negative repercussions such as:

 

  • Appearing dishonest to customers and the broader public deeply impacts business reputation
  • Harming employee retention and attraction by promoting negative business values
  • Sowing distrust in the larger green movement and other legitimately sustainable brands
  • Slowing down efforts to move our society to a greener model

 

Numerous companies that engage in greenwashing activities spend more money marketing their products as green than actually making changes to become more sustainable. Today, it is hard for most customers to know what to look out for, but there are certifications on labeling that can be trusted.

 

Identifying and Avoiding Greenwashing in Your Business

Fortunately, there are a lot of great reasons to legitimately start striving to make your company more sustainable and avoid greenwashing altogether. For one, the manufacturing industry is currently estimated to be responsible for over 30% of annual greenhouse gas emissions. Making large or small changes that can help to reduce that number is critical to combating climate change and working to keep global average temperature changes to a minimum.

 

Perhaps the best place to start evaluating your company for possible greenwashing is to review your sustainability initiatives. Are these initiatives outdated or commonplace in today’s market? Do they achieve the goals they are intended for? Are there new technologies or better emerging practices that can help you attain these goals more effectively?

 

There are many ways that companies can pursue sustainability measures such as switching to renewable energy sources, reducing emissions or other pollutants, and altering practices/ingredients to better conserve natural resources. In today’s world, making these changes can save companies money and increase business reputation over time.

 

Ways to Lead the Sustainability Charge

Taking the initiative to make change and building momentum is often the hardest part of becoming more sustainable. But there are a lot of small steps that can be taken that lead to big, big changes across the company. Going green doesn’t necessarily mean spending millions to refurbish the entire company all at once (though it could!) It means actively taking steps and making investments that lead to greater sustainability.

 

Consumers that are worried about greenwashing pay attention to actions, not words and they look for manufacturing trends that give away your intentions. For instance, consumers worried about emissions and pollution may look for products that broadcast that they are produced locally or regionally rather than internationally. Likewise, they may look for companies that use recycled materials, packaging, or biodegradable plastics.

 

Another way companies can lead the sustainability change is to look thoroughly at product ingredient lists and evaluate what can be substituted for more sustainable alternatives. This can be done throughout the entire supply chain. Stay true to your goals and realities though, and avoid making false promises that you can’t follow through on.

 

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Greenwashing is a considerable problem in manufacturing which can lead to a lot of negative problems both for the company and the environment. Identifying and striving to avoid greenwashing in your manufacturing process can provide several real benefits. Taking the time to make sustainable changes can lead to long-term savings and a significant PR boost for the business.

 

 

Jori is an experienced freelance writer from the Northwestern U.S. She covers a wide range of subjects but takes a particular interest in covering topics related to Technology, Artificial Intelligence,  Machine Learning, and Cybersecurity. You can follow Jori on Twitter and LinkedIn.

 

 

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