Don't Be Greenwashed: The Unethical Marketing Tactic That Majority Of Companies Get Away With

Don't Be Greenwashed: The Unethical Marketing Tactic That Majority Of Companies Get Away WithGreen beauty is no longer for the hippies. Over the years it has evolved its way into the mainstream.

As green beauty remains one of the fastest-growing industries, the demand for sustainable, natural, cruelty free and organic beauty products has been gathering momentum.

Green beauty seekers are increasingly looking for innovative new products to replace their old toxic favourites and are consciously making ethical choices where possible.

New eco beauty products that are extremely effective hit the shelves everyday and are cropping up in every corner of the world, giving the dominant and toxic big beauty brands fierce competition.

The options are endless, so much so that many consumers are no longer comparing prices. Instead, they’re asking one vital question:

What makes a beauty product truly green?

As a consumer it has become extremely daunting to choose green beauty products. Especially when all the products are primped, primed and packaged to look green and clean. Words such as “Organic” “Eco” “Botanical” “Natural” and so forth have become the headlining words on a vast majority of labels.

Over the last decade, we’ve seen the rise of ‘no parabens’ and ‘no sulphates’ plastered everywhere – but this doesn’t mean that the product is not free of all the other common toxic ingredients so often found in our personal care products.

Consumers are slowly becoming aware of these marketing gimmicks and with the green beauty market rapidly becoming inundated with misleading advertising and false environmental and health claims, here’s what you need to know when looking for green beauty products, and most importantly in your search for greener beauty products don’t allow yourself to become green-washed.

Firstly, what is greenwashing?

Greenwashing is the umbrella term used to describe when a company misleads the consumer into thinking that their product or brand is a ‘healthy or sustainable’ alternative, when, in fact, it is not.

In recent years, more companies have adopted green marketing strategies in an effort to enhance their brand image and attract new customers.

As a result, it has become difficult to tell the difference between companies that are genuinely dedicated to protecting the environment and those that are using their green campaigns to garner more profits.

In the beauty industry, greenwashing also refers to brands that make their products seem more sustainable, natural and ethical than they actually are.

In some cases, beauty brands mislead consumers into thinking that they are buying a natural product simply by having a botanical name or extract showcased on the label, even if it only makes up 1% of the entire formula.  The other great way they love to green wash is by having the packaging look natural and eco, such as; amber bottles, timber finishes, graphic designs of leaves, trees and flowers, brown labels, kraft paper boxes and so forth.

How to identify green-washed beauty products

Green and clean beauty has become a bit of a buzzword in the beauty industry.

Popular terms such as eco, sustainable, cruelty free, organic, botanical and natural; are all phrases that are nowadays overused — and misused — in the beauty industry. These simple words are what is ultimately making many of the companies more profit as they cash in on the trend that consumers want to choose “more natural” when buying their personal care items.

These over-used words make looking for true green beauty products challenging.

Due too little to no industry regulation it’s easy enough for beauty brands to make their big claims, but can they prove it?

As a savvy consumer the trick is to search beyond the gloss and jargon and ask more questions.  Here is how we navigate this muddy industry:

First, start with reading the ingredients on the label. Ingredients are listed in order of the percentage they are found in the product, from highest to lowest. Take note of the first 5 ingredients, as a general rule they make up roughly 80% of the product.

Some common toxic chemicals to avoid include:

  • Mineral oil; a colourless and odourless oil that's actually made from petroleum.
  • Parabens; otherwise known as butylparaben, ethyl paraben, isobutyl paraben, methylparaben, or propyl paraben.
  • Synthetic fragrances; companies by law are not required to list the ingredients in their ‘fragrances’ so they can keep their formulas top secret. This leads to a massive lack of transparency as to what is actually in the product.
  • Sulphates; these are harsh detergents that strip away the skin’s natural oils, interfering with the protective barrier.
  • Toluene; a chemical derived from petroleum or coal tar sources.

This isn’t an exhaustive list of toxic ingredients to look out for in green-washed products, just some of the common culprits!

Then bring your awareness to what the company’s message is that they are trying to portray about this particular product. What are the key words on the label? For example; some common ones are “Botanical” or “Organic”. After reading the ingredient list common sense will prevail. For example; how can the product be botanical if the only plant extract ingredient is at the bottom of the ingredient list. Also keep in mind green-washing doesn’t just stop with sustainability and natural, they use the same method when trying to sell anti-aging or cruelty free products.  

Then take a look at the packaging. Does the packaging suggest the product is natural and sustainable? If so, do the ingredients align with the packaging? Also look at the sustainability of the packaging. Is the company doing its best to reduce plastic and excess packaging? Are non-toxic dyes used to print the labels?

Take the time to research the policies of companies. Take the time to look over the company’s website and if things are not clear then write to them. If you don’t get a response to any questions you ask – then you can be guaranteed that they are hiding something. Things to question:

  1. Are they transparent about where they source their ingredients from?
  2. What percentage of annual profit is invested in environmental conservation?
  3. How has the company helped protect native wildlife and flora in recent years?
  4. Does the company have a recycling policy? 
  5. Do they employ local people and buy locally-sourced products?
  6. Is the company involved in any community-based initiatives/projects?

Bottom line, companies will change if their customers demand it

In this case, the way we are going to solve all this hoopla on green-washing is putting the power into the consumers hands. Let’s be honest, the consumer has a big role to play here, too. We have to take responsibility for what we purchase and which companies we choose to support.

One of our guiding principles at Botanical Trader is that we “vote” with our wallets. You, the consumer, hold that power. If you refuse to buy products that are harmful to yourself and to our environment, companies will have no choice but to make better, safer, healthier, and more sustainable products.

With that power, we can help shape the overall health of ourselves and this planet. But it is 100% up to us to RISE STRONG + DEMAND IT.

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