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GreenSEO - April 2024 - Greenwashing

Natalie Arney
April 25, 2024

GreenSEO - April 2024 - Greenwashing

A talk at the first GreenSEO event at BrightonSEO fringe about Greenwashing

Natalie Arney

April 25, 2024


  1. I’m a Freelance SEO Consultant. I’ve worked agency side and

    in-house, for big brands and small brands.
  2. I also believe that the planet on which we live

    an its inhabitants deserve more
  3. The aim is to exploit consumer interest in eco -

    friendly products through deceptive claims.
  4. Greenwashing is a term coined by environmenta activist Jay Westerveld

    in 1986 in response to deceptive hotel signage.
  5. However, the marketing tactic predates its officia naming, used to

    reduce costs under the guise of environmentalism.
  6. Companies like BP and Chevron use green initiatives in marketing

    to shift focus away from corporate responsibilities
  7. • We have to do it • It’s the law

    • It looks good • It’s sexy • It makes us money
  8. Greenwashing indicators: • L ack of third-party certifications • V

    ague claims • Inconsistencies in company’s environmental track record
  9. Consumer actions: • V erify claims • Check for transparency

    • Evaluate the full product lifecycle
  10. The UK and USA lacks specific laws against greenwashing, though

    deceptive practices can be penalised under existing regulations.
  11. The ASA enforces the CAP and BCAP Advertising Codes, w

    govern media advertising. T hese codes include specific sections for environmental claims and social responsibility, ensuring ads do not mislead about environmental benefits or other aspects, promoting honest and responsible advertising.
  12. Misleading Advertising Section 3 of the CA P and BCA

    P Codes mandates that advertisements must not materially mislead consumers. 'Material' information—essential for informed decisions—must be accurate and substantiated by evidence prior to making claims, especially regarding environmental impact or product attributes, to avoid being misleading.
  13. Environmental Advertising Sections 11 (CA P Code) and 9 (BCA

    P Code) detail environmental advertising standards, mandating clarity in environmental claims and the terminology used. T hese sections impose stringent requirements for substantiating claims about environmental impacts, distinguishing between absolute and comparative claims to prevent misleading advertising.
  14. On the EU and rest of the world side, proposals

    a laws are in development to tackle misleading environmental claims more effectively.
  15. Carbon offsetting often does not address the root causes of

    carbon emission and can lead to negative side effects.
  16. • Ensure all environmental claims are substantiated • Be honest

    about how ‘green’ your brand is • A void vague language • A void greenwashed terms • Don’t rely on offsetting • Focus on genuine sustainability rather than marketing
  17. Bio Short for biological. Often used in labels saying ‘bio-based’,

    meaning made from living organisms, usually plants.
  18. Biodegradable T he product will break down in the natural

    environment with the help of bacteria and microbes. T here’s no legal time limit - it can take anywhere from 1 week to 400 years to break down in the environment.
  19. Carbon neutral T his doesn’t mean that the product or

    business does not produce any emissions. It means that the company have ‘offset’ their emissions by investing in projects which supposedly absorb an equal amount of greenhouse gases from the atmosphere.
  20. Climate friendly T his is another way of saying carbon

    neutral, often meaning the company has offset their carbon, or reduced their environmental impact in some way.
  21. Compostable Perhaps the most widely misunderstood claim. T here are

    two types of compostable: Compostable, Home Compostable
  22. Compostable T his means it can be broken down via

    ‘industrial composting’ which uses a big machine with lots of organic matter, a high temperature and air flow to compost items. It does not mean you can put it on your compost pile in your garden or in your food bin.
  23. Home Compostable Home compostable - look for the ‘home compostable’

    certification logo, this means it can go in your home compost pile and possibly in your food waste bin (if your council can accept that type of item).
  24. Degradable It will break down. T echnically most things are

    degradable, even plastic bags. T here is no legal time limit on how long something can take before companies can call it degradable.
  25. Eco Short for ecological, but often used to mean environmentally

    friendly. T here are no rules requiring that companies must show something is beneficial to the environment to be able to use this term.
  26. Environmentally friendly T here are no rules to show that

    something is beneficial to the environment, and the term ‘friendly’ has no legal definition either.
  27. Green A buzzword to mean environmentally friendly and good for

    the planet but whenever it’s used it’s so vague and has no real meaning that you should pretty much ignore it. A lways look for evidence behind ‘green’ claims.
  28. Net zero T his means an organisation has calculated their

    emissions and used the process of reduce, choose renewable, offset, to bring their total emissions to zero. Some companies are going a step further to try and bring their actual emissions to zero, meaning they produce absolutely no emissions, but this is almost impossible unless they produce their own renewable energy on-site.
  29. Ocean plastic Some companies pay for plastic waste that’s been

    scooped out of the ocean, then use this in their products. However, just because something claims to be ‘ocean plastic’ does not mean it has ever been in the ocean! Some companies use ‘ocean-bound’ plastic instead which is waste plastic argued to be destined for the ocean
  30. Oxo -degradable Oxo-degradable plastics are made from standard plastic (from

    fossil fuels), with an additive that attracts bacteria to speed up the degrading process. T hese items don’t fully disappear, instead they break down into smaller and smaller pieces, eventually leaving microplastics behind which is a big problem for our oceans.
  31. Plant based T his is popping up more as the

    popularity, and profitability, of vegan products rises. T here’s no standard definition, usually it means that it’s based on plants rather than animal products, but when you see it on a bottle of moisturiser it makes you wonder why the moisturiser contained animal products before.
  32. Plastic free Plastic free can genuinely be plastic free, sometimes

    used to promote products which would not usually be made from plastic or are obviously not made from plastic, such as ‘plastic-free wooden pegs’. It can also be used to highlight products that shouldn’t have been made from plastic in the first place but had hidden plastics many didn't realise existed, such as ‘plastic-free teabag wrappers’ which we assumed were just paper before.
  33. Recycled Some companies use the word ‘recycled’ but when you

    read the small print, they’re made from just 10%or 20% recycled material. T here are two types of recycled content; Pre-consumer Recycled, Post-consumer Recycled
  34. Pre -consumer Recycled Rubbish that hasn’t been used, usually waste

    created during manufacturing like fabric offcuts, plastic pieces, wood shavings etc.
  35. Post -consumer Recycled Rubbish created once people have used the

    item, all the stuff we throw away or recycle.
  36. Recyclable A company can prove that their item is recyclable

    but whether you can recycle it as a consumer entirely depends on where you are and who is collecting the bin you’re about to put that ‘recyclable’ product in.
  37. Reusable T echnically anything is reusable if you don’t throw

    it away! T his is used to highlight items that have been designed for reuse, like reusable coffee cups.
  38. Sustainable Sustainable should consider three elements (social, environmental and economic),

    but there’s no requirement to do so before making a claim of being sustainable. Some companies will claim their products are sustainable because they’re reusable or contain recycled content.