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Consumers are often misled to believe they are helping the environment when buying products that are supposedly green.
Consumers are often misled to believe they are helping the environment when buying products that are supposedly green.

Beware the greenwashers - 5 Tips to help the conscious consumer make better choices


Issued by TinCan PR - Sep 20th 2018, 10:03

Consumers are often misled to believe they are helping the environment when buying products that are supposedly green. However, on closer inspection, not all green products are created equal. Enters greenwashing. 

Greenwashing is when companies use a green brush to give the impression that they and their products are environmental-friendly, explains Rory Murray, Head of Marketing at Tuffy Brands, the pioneer of 100% recycled refuse bags in South Africa.

Riding the green wave are many service providers and product manufacturers with a good advertising team. You will find from eco-friendly hotels, chemical companies, beauty products to plastic bag manufacturers on the bandwagon.

“Nowadays many products and services claim to be green, which can make it difficult to distinguish if a service or product is really better on the environment. Greenwashing is common in South Africa,” says Murray.

“Consumers will often see that pictures of nature are added on labels, or words such as “recycled” and “organic” are used without any factual information to substantiate these claims. In our industry, we especially see evidence of greenwashing when it comes to recycled products. Murray says manufacturers may, for example, greenwash products by using the recycling symbol, which is intended to inform consumers of the recyclability of the packaging. These labels then mislead and deceive consumers.

“Only when a product is made from a high content of post-consumer waste does it have any claim to be green, and this needs to be verified. Unfortunately, little control exists to regulate the products hitting the retailers’ shelves with false recycling claims,” he says.

While more needs to be done to stamp out the practice of greenwashing, Murray believes consumers can play a major role in helping by consciously checking credentials and choosing the right products when shopping in order to contribute positively to the country’s recycling figures.

These five tips can help the conscious consumer to make a better choice:

1) Murray says South African consumers are mostly misled by vague claims. Ask yourself if the words, image or symbol on the product are misleading. If it is just vague and unspecific it is probably greenwashing.
2) Not sure? Check if the source is provable or how creditworthy the certification is – you can do so on the internet, just google it or visit the website.
3) Use your common sense or gut feel – some companies make green claims when you know that their products are destroying the environment.
4) Be informed – you can read up about greenwashing on websites such as Wikipedia and the
5) If you suspect that a company is greenwashing its product, speak up. In this way, consumer awareness is growing on an international level. A recent example is a manufacturer of baby products in Australia*, which described some products as pure, natural and organic, although it contained synthetic chemical preservatives. The company has been fined by their competition and consumer commission for making misleading claims. Though the products are definitely safe to use, it was not as organic as was claimed.

“There is nothing currently in place to police greenwashing in South Africa so the consumer has a big role to play. Just by being more aware can put pressure on companies to be more responsible and honest."

“Consumers from every walk of life try daily to make a difference by supporting environmental-friendly products. They should not let greenwashers take advantage of them,” Murray says.


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