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The 7 Deadly Sins of Greenwashing

By Sasha de Beausset Aparicio, MSc

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Greenwashing Industry

Did you know that in 2010, TerraChoice conducted a study[1] with 4,744 green products labeled as such in American and Canadian stores, discovering that more than 95 percent were guilty of at least one of the “Seven Sins of Greenwashing?” Worrisome!

Greenwashing, otherwise known as the process of making products or services appear environmentally sustainable and eco-friendly, when they, in fact, are not,[2] is a concerning trend that has been increasing over the last decade in just about every industry. As companies are more aggressively pressured to be socially conscious and sustainable in their practices, they revert to cutting corners and misleading consumers with a “green image.”

Although greenwashing[3] is a phenomenon we’re seeing with everything from detergent to edibles, we’re going to examine how it relates to the supplement industry.

The 7 Sins of Greenwashing

So here are “The 7 Sins of Greenwashing” for dietary supplements:[4][5]

  1. Trade-Offs: Greenwashing is all about hidden trade-offs today. Although a supplement may read as “organic,” that’s covering up the fact that thousands of gallons of water, emissions, and inhumane working conditions were pursued to create the product. It’s a hidden trade-off at the expense of the green label.
  2. No Proof: Supplements that make an environmental claim and then support it with absolutely no evidence on the label or website product is another side effect of the greenwashing movement. If they won’t or can’t support the claims, then the product is likely not environmentally friendly.
  3. Vague Language: It’s common to read broad terms, like “sustainable” or “environmental,” without receiving any proof of such claims. Using terms that are too broad or poorly defined is an easy way to trick supplement consumers.
  4. Irrelevance: It’s common for supplement companies to tout that they are “plastic-free” when it is, in fact, illegal to have traces of plastic or other harmful chemicals in their products. It’s a distraction. Another example of irrelevance is the claim according to which the product is made in a GMP facility. The FDA forces the companies to only work with GMP approved facilities.
  5. Comparisons: Claiming to be more environmentally conscious than competitors, when almost the entire industry is environmentally harmful, is not really a valuable comparison. It’s simply shifting the narrative to confuse the consumer.
  6. Lying: Unfortunately, supplement companies will lie to you. They’ll claim that all ingredients are all-natural and handpicked by their staff with no pesticides used. In many cases, this is just a bold-faced lie, and the fact that they are advertising it to you is illegal – however, these deceptions aren’t always caught by government agencies.
  7. Fake Labels: Another distraction tactic, supplements will claim to have the endorsement of environmental groups that simply aren’t substantiated. They will either lie or make groups up altogether, to throw on the green check mark when it’s time to manufacture the product.

How to Avoid Greenwashed Products

Avoid Greenwashed Products

There are a growing number of agencies that are fighting the good fight with consumers today. For instance, the USDA Certified Organic, Non-GMO Project Verified, Cruelty-Free International, Vegan, Green Business Bureau and Energy Star certifications and eco-labels are legitimate and reliable

Prior to investing in a supplement, take the time to see if it is registered with the relevant labels before you take a chance on a product that is wholly unknown to you. Lastly, share your newfound information with friends and family – get the conversation started.

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