Companies that value sustainability want to show their customers and investors that they are taking steps to decrease their carbon footprint. Unfortunately, some industries have gained a reputation for misrepresenting their activities, or “greenwashing.”. This unfortunate practice makes it harder and harder for legitimate carbon reduction activities to be recognized by the public, so it’s important for your company’s credibility to avoid greenwashing. Let’s take a closer look at what greenwashing is and how to avoid it within your organization.

What is greenwashing?

Greenwashing is conveying a false impression or deliberately providing misleading information about the environmental awareness or the “green” factor of a company’s products. At its core, it involves deceiving customers into thinking they’re buying an environmentally friendly product or supporting a company that values sustainability when they’re not.

A company might claim that its products are all made from recycled materials. Lots of companies make this claim, but in many cases, it’s only partially true. Claims are exaggerated for the purpose of misleading consumers and increasing sales volume.

Unfortunately, the growing demand for environmentally sustainable business models and green products has led to some organizations taking shortcuts. Instead of taking action to make their products green, they have chosen to deceive customers through greenwashing. As more consumers demand that the industry takes action to reduce their carbon footprint and provide environmentally sound products, this practice is becoming more commonplace.

How can a company show they value sustainability the right way?

If your company is truly invested in providing environmentally friendly solutions to consumers, it’s critical that your claims and products are marketed differently than those of greenwashing competitors.

Marketing for truly green products should be specific about showing the attributes of products. For example, if you are selling shoes made from 100% recycled materials, your marketing needs to expand on that statement. It should explain the exact materials used in production (and shipping).

Consumers appreciate transparency, and your long-term sales will benefit from being as transparent as possible about your material sources and production methods. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers a few guidelines for consumers to differentiate between greenwashed products and real green products[1]:

  • Green claims should be conveyed in plain language that’s easily understood, rather than in scientific language that “speaks over customer’s heads.”
  • Environmental claims should be clear about what they refer to, whether it’s the product itself, the packaging, or the manufacturing process.
  • Be specific about a product’s environmentally friendly attributes, but don’t exaggerate them. If your product only contains 65% recycled materials, say so.
  • Back up all claims that compare your product to another product. Don’t just talk about why your product is better. Be prepared to prove it.

To read the full statement of the FTC or learn more about advertising techniques for green products, visit or