You may have not heard of the term “Green Washing” in a world where 'organic' is the gold standard for everything from food, to bedding, to beauty products and more, there are hundreds of brands marketing each day that their products, too, are at this gold standard. Unfortunately, it's not always the case. Greenwashing is a way to essentially fool or deceive consumers into thinking a product is more natural and cleaner than it really is. Greenwashing is the use of marketing to portray an organization's products, activities or policies as environmentally friendly when they actually are not. This is done by pushing a product or misleading the consumers about the environmental benefits of a product or policy through specific advertising, public relations and unsubstantiated claims. Greenwashing is a play on the term "whitewashing," which means to gloss over wrong-doing or dishonesty or exonerate without enough investigation or verification.
“Pink Washing” is very similar to the act of greenwashing in the sense that there are companies, or organizations that claim to be concerned about breast cancer by promoting a pink ribbon product, but at the same time they produce, manufacture, and, or sell products that are linked to the disease. Breast Cancer Action coined the term pink washing as part of their Think Before You Pink® campaign.
It’s October and this is when you see pink washing the most, especially since it is breast cancer awareness month. Be mindful of where your money is going and who will benefit from your purchase before buying one of the many pink ribbon products.
Let’s Break it Down
The Food, Drug, and Cosmetics Act prohibits the distribution of “misbranded” cosmetics. The general idea behind greenwashing is to create a benefit by appearing to be an environmentally responsible, "green" company, whether that benefit comes in the form of a higher stock price, more customers or favored partnerships with green organizations. So how does green washing happen?
The tools used in greenwashing can include press releases about green projects or task forces put into place, energy reduction or pollution reduction efforts, and re-branding of consumer products and advertising materials. The company or group may be operating in damaging ways or may simply be unwilling to make a meaningful commitment to green initiatives. Greenwashing as a practice began with the rise of the environmental movement in the mid-1960s.
Creating a Clean Beauty Brand
One term companies are not allowed to toss around is “USDA certified organic.” A beauty product is USDA certified organic if it contains all or mostly agricultural ingredients, and can meet the USDA/NOP organic production, handling, processing and labeling standards. A product does not necessarily have to be USDA certified organic to be a great, all-natural product.
Finding a balance between clean, organic products and historical "luxury" products can be hard. And because companies in the beauty industry are incredibly under-regulated and marketing claims being key drivers in generating consumer interest in products, greenwashing is more present in the industry than it has ever been. It is up to the consumer to exercise that extra step and research or ask questions when it comes to buying into marketing claims for products you wish to purchase and use.