Stepping into any store or clicking into online retailers, an eco-conscious consumer finds a selection of “eco-friendly” products with shiny bold claims highlighting the recyclability, compostable attributes and environmental intentions, all luring us into a purchase, despite the higher price. We are willing to pay for a greener product--WE WANT A GREENER PRODUCT--and marketers bank on this altruism.
However, when a little more research is done, we discover so many of these marketed claims are loosely monitored, unsubstantiated, or worse, blatant attempts to cover up deeper, darker and murkier issues.
Compostable is really only feasible in a large-city settings with sophisticated composting effort is in place, and the products are usually made of GMO corn or soy. Recyclable is a dying term since plastic is no longer being accepted in China (where most plastics get recycled), and the excessive amount of pollution that goes into manufacturing and recycling is barely helpful. Other troublesome claims such as “All-Natural” when filled with palm oil, an ingredient which causes SO MUCH social and environmental harm, makes us cringe and want to shout from every rooftop. Consumers are comforted by the natural claim and we rarely have time or resources to understand the bigger issues.
The attempt to intentionally mislead or comfort the consumer by making a product seem environmentally conscious is called GREENWASHING. It is an unfortunate, sometimes atrocious trend within consumer product marketing.
Futerra Sustainability Communications, in their 2015 report Selling Sustainability: A Primer for Marketers, offers these ten signals of greenwashing on a product:
Fluffy language: Words or terms with no clear meaning (e.g., "eco-friendly")
Green products vs. dirty company: Efficient light bulbs made in a factory that pollutes rivers
Suggestive pictures: Images that indicate an (unjustified) green impression (e.g., flowers blooming from exhaust pipes)
Irrelevant claims: Emphasizing one tiny green attribute when everything else is un-green
Best in class: Declaring you are slightly greener than the rest, even if the rest are pretty terrible
Just not credible: "Eco-friendly" cigarettes, anyone? "Greening" a dangerous product doesn't make it safe.
Gobbledygook: Jargon and information that only a scientist could check or understand
Imaginary friends: A label that looks like a third-party endorsement … except it's made up
No proof: It could be right, but where's the evidence?
Outright lying: Totally fabricated claims or data
We Rage Against Greenwashing.
First of all, it is our position that companies who benefit from misleading consumers are lame, and the worst of American entrepreneurship. Beyond financial benefit, we have a soul-rooted connection to this planet because it is so heart-achingly beautiful. We’ve wandered the globe and seen the disgusting palm manufacturing, the wretched landfills, the crumbling villages as well as the limitless hope. If environmental consideration and protection is to catch on as a mainstream business tactic, the companies, from small to large, that are considering the idea, need to be given correct information and resources to improve their own practices.
When we set out to create a refillable, high-quality package for our lotions and potions, we had no idea how few resources existed due to a lack of demand. Instead of giving up, we put ourselves on the line. We realized that even if the process is more difficult, it is worth it, if it means the next company who would like to explore the refill concept has a model and some resources to look at. We hope this model gets copied, over and over.
Responsibility ultimately lies with the consumer, which we hate to say because we wish you didn’t have to think about this stuff. We wish you could purchase a product without wondering if the people behind the decisions were doing right by you, the world, and our children. We are doing what we can to nurture a business community full of informed participants with easy access to tested, proven, reliable information and options. There is no perfect. We are far from it, but are working to figure out all of the possible options to continue doing the most good with the least harm.
Our own marketing efforts demonstrate our intention to do everything we can to use what is already available to better our company and to ultimately be part of a bigger conversation towards a revolution. Our products come in refillable containers, and our refill system ensures you can use them for years. We don’t use tubes which can’t be refilled or used for other purposes. We don’t use unnecessary packaging, and we ship using recycled styrofoam, plastic and shredded office paper to pad our delicate glass. We work closely with our labs to ensure responsible sourcing, and demand continued improvement. We use our voice and purchasing power and challenge you to do the same.
For the most part, we attempt to be sophisticated and graceful. There are times when we feel grit and vulgarity seems appropriate. Rage Against the Greenwashing.
Please use #rageagainsthegreenwashing or #rageagainstthewaste whenever possible to show your own rage. And help keep all of us--who are trying to make our living creating products we want you to buy--accountable.
xo, Skin and Sky