By Andrew Meggitt
To environmentally conscious consumers looking to make more responsible purchasing decisions, there’s nothing more frustrating than being confronted with vague or misleading “green” labels. A bottle that reads “100 percent environmentally happy” might trick some consumers into buying it, but it’s going to turn off those eco warriors who see right through the marketing malarkey.
When companies make claims about their environmentally friendly practices that aren’t backed by facts or that are downright false, their credibility takes a hit. And for a business that’s identified as a “green” company, the damage might be irreversible.
But what can well-intentioned business owners do to make sure they avoid the pitfalls of greenwashing?
Once you figure out what you stand for, you need to be transparent and communicate those goals to potential customers. Tell them how your business practices or products meet those ideals. Be clear, and — as your teachers used to say — show your work. If you make statements about your environmental friendliness, you need to be able to back them up.
Familiarize yourself with the list, and ask yourself whether your claims can be substantiated by readily available information. Also, determine whether your claims really mean something — or whether they’re true of every company.
For example, saying that your product is free of chlorofluorocarbons is pointless because these chemical compounds are banned — all products should be CFC-free. To avoid greenwashing practices, avoid saying anything that could mislead consumers.
If you’re designing a new product, familiarize yourself with the criteria used to evaluate those products. For instance, SMART offers sustainable standards for a wide range of consumer products, including building products, apparel, and textiles. Look at companies you admire, and see what certification programs they use. Once you find guidelines, you can follow them to provide evidence of your sustainability.
Businesses have to make money, but they don’t have to compromise their integrity or the needs of the environment to turn a profit. It’s possible to do well in business and take real steps to make the world a better place. Have you ever bought Seventh Generation cleaning products or Patagonia apparel? Then you’ve supported businesses whose practices align with their marketing.
By engaging in truly sustainable practices and not just paying lip service to the environment, you can boost your business and make a real difference.
Image credit: Flickr/mtsofan
Andrew Meggitt joined the St. James Winery team in 2002 and has been enjoying life in the wine business for over 20 years. A three-year-long travel adventure around the world following university influenced not only his outlook on life, but also his perception of winemaking styles and methodology. Andrew creatively stretches the boundaries of traditional winemaking while integrating both old- and new-world techniques he learned while working in New Zealand and France.