As our society becomes more aware of environmental issues, our businesses too have shifted towards more sustainable practices. But some businesses catch onto this trend, and promote themselves as sustainable just for sales. 

This practice is called greenwashing. Greenwashing occurs when a business markets themselves as “green” and environmentally-friendly, but don’t actually have any of the business models, policies and regulations in place that make it “green.” That means, instead of genuinely working towards a sustainable future, we see companies instead spending their money and efforts to create a facade of doing so. 

Now, certainly, most businesses do not do this intentionally. Some mistakes arise when businesses are unclear about what sustainability entails for them. Fortunately, an environmental marketing agency called TerraChoice compiled a list of the “Six sins of greenwashing”  that they later published in a study. Here, I’ve briefly broken it down. 

  1. Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off: if a product is “eco” in one aspect, but not really in most other aspects, this is called a hidden trade-off. For example, a product could use non-toxic materials but have a very unethical supply chain.
  2. Sin of No Proof: as the name suggests, this occurs when a company makes a claim about their products or services and tout them to be “eco,” when in fact none of these claims are verifiable.
  3. Sin of Vagueness: When you beat around the bush and try to reach for some claim without outright saying that claim, you’re committing the sin of vagueness. This might mislead some of your customers (intentionally or not), and it’s hard to determine the real meaning of your message.
  4. Sin of Irrelevance: Sure, you might make a claim that’s true. But it really doesn’t matter in the big picture: you have to take the entire product into full view when you’re considering its environmental impact; you can’t just cherry pick what’s useful for your advertisement.
  5. Sin of Lesser of Two Evils: Why be the lesser of two evils when you could…not be evil? Just because something else out there exists that’s worse for the environment and the planet doesn’t give you leeway to market your product as better. Only when it’s actually “green” should it be advertised as such!
  6. Sin of Fibbing: probably the worst of them all. This is when a company outright lies about the “greenness” of its products. Come on now. 

So with that information in mind, how does one avoid these six sins and greenwashing in general? A simple thing is to do the opposite of what the above list talks about. 

But really, you and your company can avoid it simply by doing your research: make sure you aren’t using any empty language. Work with sustainable partners, like, that can give you honest advice about your business practices. And at the end of the day, be transparent and honest — with yourself, your consumers, and the planet.

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