3. JargonWatch: Greenwashing, which is what H&M was recently accused of by a Norwegian consumer watchdog. Greenwashing happens when a company makes misleading statements about the environmental benefits of a product that send the message to consumers that a brand is more environmentally friendly than it really is. There's a false advertising aspect and also the holistic damage it does to the value of the brand through consumer eyes.
Examples of greenwashing include when Walmart sold plastic bottles labeled as "biodegradable" and "compostable' that were not actually made of those plastics. Walmart had to pay $1 million to settle a greenwashing case from California. Volkswagen's "clean diesel" emissions scandal was another example of greenwashing, and Nestle is in a class action lawsuit right now over cocoa beans it sold as "sustainably sourced" chocolate when their harvest is allegedly causing deforestation in West Africa.
H&M's greenwashing is more ambiguous because it is not clear what environmental benefit the collection confers, although the retailer has used its position and global influence to help lead a sustainability discussion in retail which is a good thing. H&M experimented with alternative sources for textiles, such as pineapple leaves to make Piñatex leather-like material, and citrus peels which are spun into a fabric with a silk-like hand. Greenwashing in retail is a bit of a double edge sword because it's a pretty safe bet that creating any new product is going to pay an environmental toll. Here are a few ways to spot when a company might be greenwashing. Also, here's a list from this year's Earth Day with more companies that are accused of greenwashing of products including paper plates, Chiquita bananas, and batteries.
To end our environmental discussion on a positive note, Patagonia launched Black Hole Bags that are made from 10 million recycled plastic bottles. The collection includes 25 water-resistant and durable backpacks, wheeled duffel bags, sling bags, and tote bags in a rainbow of colors.
Does greenwashing impact your brand loyalty? Hit reply to let me know what your thoughts are on companies accused of greenwashing.