Today I want to talk about greenwashing, or the deceptive marketing tactics used by many brands to make themselves seem more ethical or environmentally-friendly than they actually are.
There’s no denying that we live in a time where more and more people are waking up to the detrimental effects our lifestyles have had on the environment in the modern age. We live and breathe consumerism. We produce more waste than we’ve ever done before. We quite simply live so out of touch with the earth that we don’t even understand the concept of balance. In this state, with more kind souls than ever before starting to at least think about what they can do to live more minimally and harmoniously with their surroundings, it’s no surprise that companies try to pull on our heartstrings by marketing themselves as ‘eco’ brands. For those brands that truly are trying to produce their products ethically, that’s great! But for those in disguise? These are the ones we need to watch out for.
Marketing, or the process of advertising a product in the best possible light, has one ultimate goal: highlighting how wonderful that product is in order to make us feel as though we cannot live without it. It’s all a mind-game. All advertising is. It plays on our weaknesses and encourages us to spend, spend, spend. Advertisers know what appeals to the general public and so they create this idea of the life you could well have if only you pick up their product.
Greenwashing can be seen when words such as ‘ethical’, ‘organic’, ‘natural’, ‘green’, ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘sustainable’ – amongst many others – are used when they might be misleading the customer. Everyone has differing opinions about what constitutes a truly environmentally-friendly brand and I do think that it’s hard to please everyone, but there are definitely cases where greenwashing can be seen plain and clear.
I – like many ladies – was an absolute addict to the brand as a teenager. I worshipped the flagstones upon which those shops were built, deeply inhaling the heady aroma as I marched through the door and into a melting pot of colour, texture and aroma. It wasn’t until I started getting into my skincare when I hit the age of twenty-or-so, that I started considering ingredients. I started doing research into which ingredients were truly good for the skin and which to avoid. Something I quickly noticed was that LUSH used Sodium laureth and lauryl sulfate. Hadn’t I heard those names before? Yes, I had indeed come across an article pinning them as industrial strength, cheap cleaning agents and known irritants. Why were they using them? Next up, almost all the products contained parabens. Whatever your opinion of these preservative agents and whether or not you feel they have bioaccumulative effects in our bodies over time, it seemed bizarre that this ‘natural’ brand was throwing them in everything.
So many brands now advertise that they don’t include SLS or parabens, becuase they know the fear these spark in consumers. It makes their products seem better for us (despite whatever other chemical concoctions they consist of) even if they’re not. So with there so much hype around these, why was LUSH still reaching for them?
I love the fact that LUSH launch so many campaigns for all kinds of pressing issues, from animal-testing to shark-finning to the current internet shutdown. We see few brands doing that, and so for someone with such a loud voice in the cosmetics department, this is a fantastic thing to see. As for the ingredients lists though, I do think that they should be striving for better quality in order to be ‘green leaders’
The Body Shop
In my opinion, The Body Shop is much worse than LUSH. It was founded by Anita Roddick back in the 1970’s and was a real step up in the cosmetics game, calling for a total no-go policy on animal testing. More, Roddick highlighted the importance of using fair trade ingredients.
Take a closer look now, however, and we see their products filled with synthetic fragrance, preservatives and colours and many petroleum-derived ingredients as a main component. Oh, and it’s now owned by global beast, L’Oreal – the cosmetic king of animal testing.
Last example goes to H&M. About 4 years ago, H&M launched what it described as an ‘ethical’ sub-label, named Conscious. The products (though few and far between compared to a store’s worth of clothing, are either made of organic cotton or recycled fibres. I can’t help but laugh a bit at this logic. You are still creating millions of cheap, unsustainable garments every year, but somehow you think offering a few recycled or organic options rectifies this or is somehow undoing the damage done by fully driving forward fast fashion? Nope. It just doesn’t really help. I can see how it might make consumers who want to be more environmentally-friendly feel like they can make a positive choice, but purchases of Conscious still ultimately support a brand that at the end of the day is doing far more harm than good.
So you see, it isn’t easy nagivating the market and deciding what to purchase when you want to part with your cash. The best thing you can do, however, is research. Really try to gather as much information as you can on the brand and the product(s) in question. Only then can you make the most informed decision.