Before reading this post, check out my previous post, What You Need to Know About Greenwashing. It details the basics behind greenwashing and gives tips on how to spot it like a pro. But what happens after you've identified a product or company that is partaking in greenwashing? Is there anything you can do? Of course, there is! It's sometimes hard to imagine that you can impact a company, but you certainly can. As a customer service agent, I know that I report constructive feedback directly to my boss and other teams. Companies care what consumers are saying about them, especially on social media, but we have the power to make or break their reputations. Do not underestimate yourself or the power that we as consumers have. Always remember that customers are what a business needs to be successful.
The best course of action against a company greenwashing is not to buy anything from that company, and if it's a specific product, definitely don't buy it. Whether we like it or not, America is a capitalist country, and that means that we have to vote with our dollars when we can. We can't let companies who greenwash, without any intention of changing their practices, make profits off of false promises and hiding the truth. It's important to purchase from their actually sustainable competitors. When you can afford to, choose the best sustainable option. I know this can get pricey, so try to narrow down what matters most to you or what's most affordable. Sustainability is a complex issue, and I recommend defining the most important pillars to you. For example, do you care most about packaging, fair trade, or clean ingredients? Once you've decided these deciding factors, choose companies and products that you know are working toward these goals and not companies that are pretending to.
Make Your Voice Heard
We live in an era of information overload. You can find everyone and anyone's opinion through google and social media, and this also means that anyone and everyone can find your opinion. This, of course, goes without saying that you need to comfortable with the world being able to see your opinion, but this is also the best way to have an impact larger than yourself. If you see greenwashing in action, say something. Whether it be a comment on a post, a blog post, or a tweet, your voice on social media and the internet has the power to reach someone who cares enough to stand with you. Not to mention, you have the power to reach the company you're trying to educate and hold them accountable. Please please note that I do not want you to drag a company on social media. I want you to ask questions, educate them, or give ideas on how they can do better. A viral post/tweet/TikTok will certainly get a response out of the company. Smart companies will even respond to less liked comments and tweets to prevent a PR disaster. I think we all know by now that companies monitor anything on the internet related to them. They want to know more than anything what people are saying about them because both good and bad statements have the opportunity to snowball, greatly impacting their profits and reputation. Additionally, sign petitions (or start them) to have a tangible document that expresses what needs to change or what can change for them to do better. Petitions are also a great way to get traction and show companies people want them to do better.
Educate Your Friends & Family
The best way to get comfortable sharing your thoughts and opinions is to start with those close to you, like your friends and family. This especially helpful to build your confidence and feel like you have a real impact. When you can have an open dialogue with someone, you not only have a better chance of educating them, you also have the opportunity to be educated. I love having somewhat controversial conversations with my friends and my family because it can give you insight into why others make the choices they do. It's important to remember that the conversation goes both ways and that you cannot control other people's choices. However, education is important, and it's the first step in changing other's purchasing habits for the better. Let your mom or best friend know in a nice way why the seemingly eco-friendly product they bought is not sustainable. Most people who are not interested in sustainability probably don't know what to do about greenwashing or spot it. This is why it's important to discuss it with them without being judgemental or condescending. After you've succeeded in having conversations with those close to you, it's a lot easier to have conversations on the internet or with people you don't know as well. Hopefully, the people you've talked to will research and then talk to people they're close to. And this is how you grow your impact and influence! Isn't that such a wonderful thing?
It's easy to let eco-anxiety and stress come over you when you think about all things and steps necessary to stop climate change, and worrying won't get you anywhere. Optimism is the last step in fighting greenwashing because we have to be optimistic that these companies want to change. We need to encourage them to do better, not bully them. Sustainability is hard for companies and consumers; we want to open an avenue for dialogue with companies to help them do better. As I mentioned earlier, many people don't understand how complicated it can be to achieve true sustainability, which goes for people working in large corporations. We need to be in this together, and that means helping and educating companies who are greenwashing. Hopefully, our optimistic view of the world could encourage positive change, and that's the whole goal of the sustainability movement.