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Greenwashing

Everyone is aware that ecology is a major challenge today. For some, it’s a true problem on which we need to act fast and therefore change our habits. For others, it’s simply a new “eco-hippy” trend. But generally speaking, everyone is starting to become “greener”.

At Comme Avant, we are tackling environmental issues by offering a simple and healthy alternative to current cosmetics and by adapting our company's day-to-day life to a more eco-friendly approach. Our aim is to help you “consume less and better”.

It’s important for us to highlight the ecological nature of our products and our vision to raise awareness about the current situation. However, we also notice that ecology is becoming an overused argument without any real justification, meaning it’s jeopardising companies who are actually trying to change things. A green-coloured product or a leaf on its label doesn’t necessarily mean it’s eco-friendly. This misuse is known under the name of “greenwashing”. In this article, we are going to tell you a bit more about this practice.

 

What is greenwashing?

This term is a contraction of the words “green” (a reference to ecology) and “brainwashing”. Greenwashing is the act of dissimulating a company’s real intentions under an environmental argument to attract more clients.

A product’s main argument then relies on an “ecological” quality even when it’s isn’t exceptional. Very often, products undergo a minor alteration and the brand communicates excessively about this modification to make it seem like radical and revolutionary, even when it’s not the case. The aim is to convince and drive people to buy, who will then think they have done something in favour of the environment.

Very trendy since the year 2000, this practice isn’t new as this word was used for the first time in 1986. It was used to denounce hotel practices encouraging clients to reuse their towels for ecological reasons whereas the true purpose was financial. Today, greenwashing affects all sectors, but it is mainly found in food, car, cosmetic, energy, and textile industries, the latter at the centre of many controversies.

 

How to spot greenwashing?

To help you understand some greenwashing practices, here are some common ones as examples.

In prime position, we are naming the colour green and its abusive use. Some brands have made green their main colour, however sadly only this colour has a link with ecology, nothing else. The product composition, the packaging used, the brand’s practices rarely go hand in hand with a true and profound environmental approach. This doesn’t mean that a green product is necessary greenwashing, but you need to remain vigilant, things aren’t always as they seem. This colour-use practice has been known for a couple of years now and the strategy seems to be moving on to the colour blue, so keep an eye out.

The “free from” reference is also part of greenwashing practices. Some labels include the reference “free from [name of the controversial ingredient]”, in this case two elements need to be taken into account. 

First of all, it’s important to check that this ingredient hasn’t been replaced by another ingredient, which isn’t necessarily any better. Because of intense negative media-coverage on a particular ingredient, a brand may decide to remove it from a product’s composition but replacing it by an ingredient with a different name which has the exact same flaws. Once again this isn’t valid all the time and for all brands.

Secondly, this practice is punishable by law. In fact, the “free from” argument can’t be listed within a product’s main arguments. By writing “free from [name of the controversial ingredient]” when this ingredient isn’t prohibited by law, it basically comes down to accusing authorities of allowing a dangerous ingredient to be used elsewhere.

This “free from” reference can only be used when its aim is to inform. Some people, by conviction or for health reasons, look for products “free from essential oils” or “free from sulphate”. Learning how to read a label and how to recognise certain ingredients can come in very handy to avoid this greenwashing practice.

Lies are also a method used by greenwashers. We aren’t talking about obvious lies but rather arguments which can’t be verified. Beware of figures which are too good to be true or products which “save the planet”. Faced with today’s ecological status, lack of humility is close to despising the current situation.

The most deceitful practice is the use of “false” certifications. You need to keep in mind that certifications and quality seals are purchase triggers. Within this environmental context, certification reassure us and guarantee (usually) strict requirements which avoid people spending hours verifying information.

However, all certifications aren’t equal, and some brands create their own. This poses a logical problem and can be considered as non-bias, just like if you were correcting your own school homework! They define their own rules and aren’t interested in rectifying some of their flaws. Here’s a tip: getting to know certifications and quality seals as well as their requirements will help you identify false promises.

Please note that this list of practices is non-exhaustive, they are many other ways of resorting to greenwashing. It’s therefore important to be careful which products you buy and which brands you trust.

 

And Comme Avant in all this?

It happens that some people who see us for the first time, suspect us of resorting to greenwashing as we highlight the ecological nature of our products. We understand that many people are cautions of everything and everyone when referring to ecology. This proves that more and more of us are paying attention and that’s a good thing! 

When this occurs, we answer that our products have been created with the simplest formulas and with minimalist, recyclable, and refillable packaging. Generally speaking, we match our words with deeds. We don’t have anything to hide, we are simply doing our best. We have chosen to be transparent with you because total trust must be mutual.

Our product pages are (very) long for you to have access to all the information you need. You don’t need to read it all, but at least if you have a question, you are sure of finding the answer.

For those who prefer referring to certifications (which is also a good thing), we have selected labels we trust as consumers and we contacted them to get audited. We are currently certified by four labels: 

  • COSMOS, for our products’ composition
  • Slow Cosmétique, for our approach as company
  • Vegan Society, to guarantee no ingredients of animal origin are used
  • GOTS, for the fabric we use

All in all, the consumer remains the main actor in what he/she decides to buy or not. Today more than ever, information is just one click away. It’s essential to remain informed and vigilant about products and brands’ promises.

 

Feel free to email if you have any question about us, we will be glad to help you 🙂