After New York, London and Brussels: united against greenwashing

Following the example of the Big Apple, Great Britain and the European Union are raising the bar in their fight against greenwashing. Because too many companies are consciously playing the smart-ass and too many consumers are the victims of staggering ignorance, according to a British study. And some are even thinking of a blacklist


London, Brussels, and New York (as we reported here) are taking action against greenwashing. But succeeding is by no means easy. Because we are only at the beginning of the process, and there are already those who would have liked to have taken broader steps, convinced of the urgency of any decision (first and foremost) to combat the climate emergency. But it is not only the environment that is the ultimate goal of any attempt to combat greenwashing.

United against greenwashing

We live in a time in which we are surrounded by the prefix eco and by qualifying adjectives such as greensustainableorganicand recycled. However, we often do not qualify anything because concrete facts do not support them. For example, a recycled t-shirt that uses only 12% recycled cotton cannot be considered an utterly sustainable garment. And this should be clearly stated in the online product description. Otherwise, we enter the territory of misleading and deceptive communication. Which, unfortunately, is a dramatic reality.

The meaning is not known either

This is demonstrated by research carried out by ICPEN – International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network, which we presented to you here: 42% of corporate slogans promoting their sensitivity to the well-being of the planet can easily be labelled as greenwashing. Greenwashing, after all, is designed to be a subtle and deceptive practice: if you don’t know about it, you can easily slip into it. Those who are guilty of it know this mechanism very well. In fact, a March 2021 survey conducted by the Good Housekeeping Institute found that 86% of its sample did not know the meaning of the term. Ignorance and confusion, in short.

London’s strategy 

There are two bodies with the same acronym (CMA) acting on different fronts in London. The Changing Markets Foundation has established that companies’ regulations and specifications to assert the level of sustainability of a product or practice are unclear. In fact, they allow (lo and behold) “sophisticated greenwashing on a massive scale“. The Competition and Markets Authority, on the other hand, has a much more concrete approach and threatens to publish a blacklist of fashion companies that are prone to greenwashing in order to compromise their reputation. Brutal, no doubt. But desperate times call for desperate measures.

The Brussels decision 

In Brussels, with a view to the Green Deal (i.e. achieving carbon neutrality by 2050), the European Commission presented a package of proposals 

“aimed at defining the sustainable product”. Firstly, it must be durable and repairable to extend its life cycle. The package, which aims to curb fast fashion, also includes a proposal to make consumers more responsible because even “careless”, unconscious and superficial purchases could be considered an act of complicity in greenwashing. (lf)

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