The end of the first series of our EcoSend podcast is almost upon us.
As the series has progressed, we’ve met some incredible entrepreneurs and pioneers of all things sustainability in business. This week is no exception, as in episode 8 we were joined by Mona Jensen, who is a communications consultant at Something Green.
In episode 8, Mona and James discuss the worrying trends of greenwashing and greenhushing, which in a nutshell, involves companies claiming to be greener than they actually are, or even hiding their sustainability efforts due to fear of negative repercussions.
Here’s a summary of Mona’s insights around these two important issues.
To listen to the EcoSend podcast in full for free, skip ahead to the end of this post.
Greenwashing Makes It Difficult For People To See What’s Real, And What’s Fluff
James Gill: “So maybe we’ll start with greenwashing and, let’s unpack this because this is a term that gets bandied around a lot.”
Mona Jensen: “Greenwashing is the act of giving a false impression of your environmental impact or benefit. Basically, it’s signalling that you are more sustainable than you are as a company.
It’s something that has gotten an increasing amount of attention in the last few years, which makes sense because we’re now all talking about sustainability and realising, oh, shoot, we need to do something. So all of a sudden everybody’s jumping on the bandwagon and saying ‘we are sustainable too by the way’.
But that’s creating some issues and it’s making it really hard for consumers to see what actually is beneficial and what is fluff.
There was this really interesting screening of websites done by the EU Commission and national consumer authorities in 2021, where they basically looked at a number of websites to see how many of them fell into the category of greenwashing.
So it turns out that in 42% of the websites used exaggerated, false or deceptive claims that could also possibly generate unfair commercial practices under EU rules.”
Marketers Need To Get Used To This New Way Of Communicating
James Gill: “You know we all want to do the right thing as consumers, don’t we? You want to make the right choice if you really care about this stuff. And I guess that is where legislation needs to come in to enforce requirements. Otherwise, I guess it quickly goes into a free for all and, you know, it becomes a marketing game rather than what are we actually gonna do about the issue.”
Mona Jensen: “Exactly. Yeah. So there’s this new regulation in place and marketers need to get used to this new way of communicating their services and products.
I’ll just walk you through the different parts of what greenwashing entails because it’s using vague and green-sounding language. So basically words that sound good, but have concrete meanings, like natural, eco-friendly, bio alternative, earth, green, farm, fresh, like all those like soft, fluffy things, and even sustainable.
This doesn’t mean that you should never use any of these words. This is not like a red list. But I think it’s really important that when we do come across these words when we find ourselves using them, we ask, why am I doing that?”
What Exactly Is Greenhushing?
James Gill: “Mona, if we’ve got to avoid greenhushing, what is that?”
Mona Jensen: “Greenhushing is the practice of simply not saying anything about your sustainability efforts. Usually out of fear of being caught out, or the fear of causing a storm.
So instead you have this situation where people are quiet, and I wanna talk about why that is a bad thing because you could argue that, oh, it’s very noble that you just do your good deeds and then you don’t tell anybody.
But if, let’s say you produce t-shirts, and you do that in a really sustainable fashion. You use organically produced cotton. You are aware of the colour imprint on the water environment.
If you are afraid that someone’s gonna point a finger at you and say, well, you are not good enough yet. You decide to just like tone it down in your marketing. Then I, as a consumer, don’t get to see what’s out there. I don’t get to know that your t-shirts are even an option. I’m not educated that organic cotton makes a difference in how it compares to non-biodegradable materials like polyesters.
And also because you are not telling people about it, then your competition isn’t seeing it. So that means they’re not feeling the pressure from you, they’re not seeing you and thinking, oh, we are gonna copy that cause that’s a darn good idea. And they’re not seeing the future we are heading towards. So they won’t take any steps to get there as well.”
Where To Find The EcoSend Podcast
The conversation is just getting started between James and Mona so we hope you’ll tune in to listen to the full episode.
You can find episode 8 of the EcoSend podcast, along with episodes 1-7 on the above links for free.
Be sure to share this episode, and let us know what you think! You can also tag us over on Twitter on our new EcoSend account.
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