What is greenwashing and why should we care?

As there are no harmonised criteria to define the properties of natural and organic cosmetics at an international level, it is difficult for producers and shoppers to evaluate whether ‘natural’ or ‘organic’ product claims can be considered misleading. Conventional and nature-inspired products may make claims (for instance, ‘made with rose oil’) use images, iconography and other forms of marketing that draw attention to a limited number of natural ingredients rather than the product as a whole. Such natural ingredients may be present in the finished product, but only in very low concentrations relative to the proportions of non-natural substances.

This malpractice, called ‘greenwashing’ can be seen not only in the misleading use of claims such as ‘natural’ and/or ‘organic’ but also ‘environmentally friendly’ or ‘green’. Greenwashing not only means shoppers are making what they think are ‘green’ choices which can actively be harming the environment, it also drains credibility from brands genuinely dedicated to sustainability and being environmentally friendly.

Jayn Sterland

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