Green marketing and greenwashing in Beauty Industry
What is your impression when you see “sustainable”, “green”, “eco-friendly”, or other positive environmental words on advertisements? It is wonderful to see people care about our environment. But is it just a marketing message to make you buy more?
Sustainability is a very complex challenge, and we are all, including governments and large corporations, still learning. There are so much “sustainable products/services” that will not bring positive impact even though their claims. Most cases, it is a lack of knowledge, sometimes it is very difficult to implement. We need to demand changes when things are clearly wrong, but we also need to encourage good intentions, willingness to learn, and actions people are taking no matter how small it is. We don’t want people to stop putting efforts to be sustainable because of the doubt created by greenwashing.
What greenwashing meaning?
When companies or people put more time and effort into marketing their products, brand, or services as “green” rather than actually doing the hard work to ensure they are really sustainable.
Here’re some examples…
- A fossil fuel producer put solar panels on their gas stations and marketed their brand as “green” while burning fossil fuel itself creates a negative impact on the environment.
- Food and beverage companies promote their “recyclable packages” made of plastics without having a clear solution to get them recycled. The reality is only 10% of plastics are currently recycled.
- A leading vehicle manufacture cheated greenhouse gas emissions test result by fitting their vehicles with a defect device. Then, they marketed their vehicles as low-emissions and eco-friendly.
Why greenwashing is a problem?
TerraChoice Environmental Marketing suggests that greenwashing can cause some consequences.
- Consumers with a good intention may purchase products that don’t deliver on their environmental promise.
- Competitive pressure from illegitimate environmental claims can take market share away from products that offer more legitimate benefits. These results slowing down the movement in the marketplace to become sustainable.
- Greenwashing may create cynicism and doubt about all environmental claims. If well-intended consumers give up on “green products”, the market demands drop and slows down the movement.
What is green marketing?
Green marketing is about the practice of developing and advertising environmentally friendly products and services. Green marketing can talk about number of different things such as product itself, packaging, business operations, and partnerships.
Here’re some examples of green marketing strategies…
- Using ethically sourced materials
- Less packaging and use easily recyclable or compostable materials
- Less weight and volume for shipping
- Using renewable energy for production
- Offsetting environmental impact by contributing to regeneration projects
It is green marketing or greenwashing?
Beauty industry is one of the largest places where green marketing is heavily used and there are so many arguments whether the product or brand is green or not. Let's look at common topics.
Natural beauty products are more eco-friendly? – It is not only about Palm Oil, but also all other natural resources. When the ingredients become popular, commercial production process takes over the place, community, and the environment. Many popular ingredients for beauty products such as argan oil and seaweeds caused the destruction and put the species in endangered status.
“Non-toxic ingredients” is safe for the environment? – Toxic material or ingredient means that it can cause injury or illness to humans when it is inhaled, swallowed, or absorbed through the skin. But there is not enough research done about the impact on the environment. For example, “reef-safe sunscreen” made with non-nano zinc oxide still contains surfactants that are harmful to aquatic ecosystems when getting into natural water sources without going through filtration systems. We don’t know how much the ingredients that are safe for human have impacts on the environment yet.
Products using palm oil marketed as sustainable is greenwashing? – Palm oil is a part of global deforestation problem. But rejecting palm oil totally will not solve this issue. There are a few reasons, but the main reason is that switching from palm oil to other vegetable oils requires 20 times more land and water for the same oil production. “Which is more sustainable” is a very difficult question. One way to avoid contributing to further deforestation is to consume less and choose palm oil from certified farmers.
Promoting bioplastic is greenwashing? – Not always. Bioplastics are made of renewable sources such as corns and sugar canes, but chemically identical to plastics made of fossil oil. When you look at only the disposal stage, there is no difference between bioplastic and conventional plastics. But when bioplastic is made of byproduct of agricultural products, it can reduce up to 25% of greenhouse gas emissions, and other resources. Bioplastics can have positive impact.
Glass and aluminum packaging are better than plastic? – Not always. Glass is heavy and produces more greenhouse gases during shipping. Recycling glass also require much more energy than plastics. Aluminum also needs a lot of energy to recycle. So, it is hard to tell until every process in the life cycle is evaluated.
Bamboo products are eco-friendly? – Bamboo is a fast-growing plant and requires a lot less water than cotton. But a lot of toxic chemicals are used to produce bamboo viscose or rayon that is used for reusable makeup pads. It should be called “rayon made from bamboo” rather than just “bamboo”.
Multi-step product routines? – The more of products you use, the more packaging you will throw away. Even though each product is eco-friendly, more products mean more resources being used, ingredients, energy, shipping, and water.
Green marketing is a vast opportunity, and it should be. Sustainability is a huge challenge for both producer and consumer because it includes many aspects of product itself to business operations. Until all pieces are fully evaluated, it is hard to say which is more sustainable. In fact, there is no such 100% sustainable product exist. Taking resources to create something always has an impact on the environment. But we should keep searching solutions and take action as we go with our best intention and capacity.
10 Companies and Corporations Called Out For Greenwashing - https://earth.org/greenwashing-companies-corporations/?gclid=EAIaIQobChMI-NOVqZ_g9wIV1jUrCh2cpAOAEAAYASAAEgK58PD_BwE
Green Marketing - https://www.shopify.com.au/encyclopedia/green-marketing
Toxic Chemical Glossary - https://www.forceofnatureclean.com/non-toxic-vs-toxin-free-what-do-these-terms-even-mean/
What is Greenwashing? How to Sport It and Stop it - https://medium.com/disruptive-design/what-is-greenwashing-how-to-spot-it-and-stop-it-c44f3d130d5