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How to Identify and Spot Greenwashing? 10 Tips

Recognizing greenwashing - 10 features and tips to quickly expose corporate green advertising lies

How can you recognize greenwashing and expose companies that present themselves as environmentally friendly and sustainable when they are not? If you're looking for tips on how to quickly identify greenwashing, you've come to the right place!

At a time when the Environmental problems of our time become more and more massive and a societal change towards a sustainable lifestyle companies like to advertise the environmental friendliness of their products. Often they really are sustainable - but more and more often they are brazen advertising lies designed to polish the company's own image green with little effort.

In this article, I would like to show you how you can recognize misleading greenwashing more quickly. I'll also give you valuable tips and some examples to help you never fall for greenwashing again. Let's go!

Here you can find a short overview in advance:

  1. Green packaging, lousy product
  2. Intransparency and lack of evidence on green statements
  3. Statements and daily business are contradictory
  4. Fuzzy but positive choice of words
  5. Green label without significance
  6. Lesser evil put in a positive light
  7. Absolutely irrelevant information
  8. Product range and campaign unrelated
  9. Drivel in the sustainability section of the company website
  10. Inquiries and tips are not taken seriously

10 tips to detect greenwashing faster

We have just been talking about advertising lies. But when you consciously Greenwashing Nowadays, people tend to lie less, but rather embellish and gloss over things. After all, these measures are more difficult to verify - and penalties are also less likely.

Nevertheless, there are ways and means with which consumers can quickly expose exactly those products and companies that make themselves look greener and more sustainable than they are. Here I would like to introduce them to you.

1. green packaging, harmful product

Recognize greenwashing in the mountain cheese from Hochland

You give your own product green packaging and the eco-friendly veil works perfectly. One happy cow together with old mountain farmer on lush green meadow The logo adorns the tetra-pak of a cow's milk and suggests a great, ecological, animal-friendly and natural product.

At the same time, its content is neither animal nor environmentally friendly. Dairy cows are kept in a brutal system exploited and killed as soon as they no longer give milk. In addition, the Factory farming more resource-intensive than almost any other industry. Many Consumers:inside who are not informed about itHowever, they fall for this form of obfuscation.

In order to recognize greenwashing, you should always put the packaging and the content in relation to each other - often it even helps to take a look at the packaging. A look at the fine print.

2. intransparency and lack of evidence for green statements

When asked, many companies simply claim without foundation that they are doing a lot for the environment - but fail to provide any proof. In addition, products are often touted as being particularly sustainable, even though this is Not verified by trusted organizations was. If the assessment of the sustainability of a product comes from the ranks of the manufacturing company itself, as a consumer:in caution is advisable - because it smells strongly of greenwashing.

3. statements and daily business are contradictory

How else can you recognize greenwashing? For example, when those responsible for a company constantly blather on about sustainability, but their daily business practices contribute massively to the ecological challenges of our time.

A nice example is the distracting RWE "VoRWEggehen" campaignThe aim was to fool consumers into believing that RWE was a pioneer in the field of green electricity. At the time, however, the majority of the company's revenue was generated from fossil fuels.

4. fuzzy but positive choice of words

Veiled false statementsThe use of terms that make an extremely positive impression at first glance is one of the most popular greenwashing methods. Terms like "regional", "natural", "green" or "ecological" sound great, but are not subject to any legal protection or trustworthy certification.

In addition, there are often invented, positive sounding terms like "free-range cows". The term was used by the Hochland brand for its "Grünländer cheese". It gives the impression that the cheese comes from the milk of free-roaming cows. In a statement, the associated company explained the choice of term by saying that it refers to cows that can move freely in the barn and are not tethered.₁

Tip: More euphemistic Euphemisms of factory farming you will learn in the linked article. Use them to specifically prevent consumer deception.

5. green label without significance

Disposable plastic cups: green design for an environmentally harmful product

A clear indication of greenwashing is when a brand is invents its own environmental or animal welfare labelthat is very close to those of trustworthy organizations. Consumers who do not take a close look could then be fooled. They can also look completely different and still be trustworthy. The "Grünländer" cheese of the Hochland brand, for example, is adorned with a green heart with the inscription "Grüne Seele - Ohne Gentechnik, Natürliche Zutaten, Milch von Freilaufkühen". Absolutely misleading.

Either way, the impression is given that the goods have been tested and meet a certain standard. So that you can recognize greenwashing, you should Familiarize with the classic seals.

6. lesser evil put in a positive light

Many companies use Compareto present their products and services as more environmentally friendly than they actually are.

For example, the BahnCard The majority of the rail network, i.e., the local lines, however, run on coal-fired power. Also a sprint-saving carappears more sustainable - but is therefore not automatically sustainable.

7. absolutely irrelevant information

In addition, countless cosmetics with the label "animal-free" equipped. Since 2013, however, there has been a comprehensive ban on animal testing for cosmetics in the EU. So brands boast their products here with a positive property that applies to products. What remains is the impression that the cosmetic products without the label "animal-free", on Animal testing based.

A similar example is the imprint "CFC-free" on spray cans. However, chlorofluorocarbons have long been banned in Germany anyway.

8. product range and campaign without connection

If you advertise a product with a campaign that at first glance does not fit in with it at all, you should also be careful. This could be a greenwashing technique that is often used to trick you as a consumer into believing in a product. special commitment of the respective brand pretended should be.

For example, you should be suspicious of the brand Nutella be. It hypocritically advocates biodiversity, but at the same time offers a product for whose ingredient "Palm oil" it to deforestation of rainforest comes.

9. drivel in the sustainability section of the company website.

If you want to identify or rule out greenwashing, be sure to check out the sustainability section of the brand's website. Often there is no tab at all for the company's own measures - and if there is, it is strewn with platitudes. Meaningless and non-measurable statements in relation to one's own only seemingly sustainable actions.

You can recognize serious efforts of companies, on the other hand, by the fact that they have a clear, logical Sustainability Strategy for environmental protection and climate neutrality pursue, which goes into detail.

10. questions and hints are not taken seriously

For the next tip on how to recognize greenwashing, you can simply contact the respective provider directly. How are inquiries and tips from customers responded to? If you are not taken seriously with your concern, this is usually a bad sign.

Be sure to also take a look at the respective Company philosophy. Do you act transparently? For example, a brand can speak out against greenwashing if it is honest and self-critical.

Know greenwashing techniques to recognize greenwashing!

Recognizing even when a company puts on a green coat of paint

There are simply still too many loopholes that brands can use to give themselves a greener image. One is probably never absolutely safe fromto fall for this form of consumer deception.

But by staying informed, knowing facts and real quality seals, always taking a look at the product composition, asking manufacturers, using informative apps like CodeCheck buying second hand more often and displaying a healthy basic skepticism, one can counteract consumer deception, at least preventively and greenwashing with a high degree of probability.

I hope that I could help you with the tips from this post. Do you have any questions, tips or further examples? Or would you like to share your own experiences with the greenwashing tricks of the industry with me and the readers? Then feel free to write me a comment below this article.

Stay sustainable and critical!

Christoph from CareElite - Plastic-free living

PS: Want to start a seriously sustainable project that you're on fire for? Then next feel free to check out the posts about the sustainable business creation and the Founding without equity capital inside.

₁ Bundesverband der Verbraucherzentralen und Verbraucherverbände - Federation of German Consumer Organizations (vzbv): Grünländer, Beispiel Sorte Chili & Paprika (20.05.2020), available at [17.01.2023].

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* Links with asterisks are so-called Affiliate links. If you click on it and buy something, you automatically and actively support my work with, because I get a small share of the sales revenue - and of course the product price does not change. Thank you for your support and best regards, Christoph!


Christoph Schulz

I'm Christoph, an environmental scientist and author - and here at CareElite I'm campaigning against plastic waste in the environment, climate change and all the other major environmental problems of our time. Together with other environmentally conscious bloggers, I want to give you tips & tricks for a naturally healthy, sustainable life as well as your personal development.

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