Is it green, or is it greenwashed? The distinction can be murky, but it’s a critically important one for consumers to understand as they make purchasing decisions.
What were once ripples of eco-friendly sentiment among consumers have turned into big green tidal waves, and companies are racing to get in on the action. Unfortunately, many of these companies would prefer to say they’re green rather than actually becoming green. And they hope the truth will get swept away with the turning tide.
So, how do you tell if a company is really green? Some companies will hide behind language to make kind-of-or-totally meaningless claims. That’s true. But it's also true that there are simple signs consumers can analyze to see if a company is really green. We explore those signs in the post below, so read on.
FiveADRIFT works hard every day to ensure that our products and processes are sustainable and environmentally friendly. When you purchase a beach towel or signature tote bag from us, you’re contributing to a global effort to stop plastic from entering our oceans as well as clean up what’s there. Shop now, or learn more about our impact here.
But First, Does it Really Matter if a Company is Green?
Does it actually matter if the companies you buy products from are green? If you’re already reducing your plastic and energy use and supporting environmental protection at the ballot box, should you really take the time to assess whether every company you do business with is green?
Yes. Absolutely. Here’s why:
– A 2017 study found that just 100 companies have produced 71% of global greenhouse gas emissions since 1988.
– Data from the Minderoo Foundation shows that 100 companies are responsible for 90% of all single-use plastics.
– Roughly 44% of the world’s largest timber and wood pulp companies have yet to commit to zero-deforestation policies.
In other words, companies bear a lot of the responsibility for some of the most pressing environmental issues we face, including deforestation, climate-altering carbon emissions, and plastic pollution.
While we can hope that governments around the world will work to curb the environmental impacts of these powerful companies, we cannot afford to bank on that prospect. What we can do, however, is hold these companies accountable in the way that speaks to them — our purchasing power.
What to Look for in a ‘Green’ Company
Where and how you spend your money matters for the environment. But knowing which companies are green enough to deserve your loyalty can be a challenge. Here are a few of the aforementioned signs to assess whether a company is green:
Company leaders have known for decades that their actions have significant effects on the environment. Many of the most environmentally friendly companies have been committed to green practices for years or even decades. Accepting potentially lower profit margins and doing the extra work in the name of the environment for years is true commitment.
So, whether you’re in the store or considering making an online purchase at home, use the internet to check a company’s commitment to being green. Have they been around for a century but only released a vague “environmental commitment” press release last year? They may not be as green as they say they are. Of course, this isn’t a defining factor, but it can help you get an idea of a company’s commitment to being green right out of the gate.
“All-natural” isn’t good enough. It’s good, but it’s not proof that a company is really green. Same goes for “eco-friendly.” Many companies make these kinds of general claims, but they purposely leave them vague because they can’t prove them.
Having general phrasing about environmental friendliness isn’t in itself a bad thing, but it needs to come alongside specific claims about how exactly the company is green. For example, at FiveADRIFT, we speak generally about being devoted to cleaning up our oceans, but we back that up with a hard number: 100% of our profits to ocean cleanup charities.
Proof in the Product and Packaging
Sometimes, all the proof you need is in the product itself or the package it comes in. If a company says it is green but uses single-use or virgin plastics in its product packaging, it can’t be that green.
The same is true of the products themselves. For instance, a packaged food company is something of an oxymoron if it says it is green but still fills its products with unsustainable palm oil. That would be like FiveADRIFT saying we want to reduce plastic pollution in the ocean but selling a beach towel that sheds tons of microplastic fibers directly into the ocean. That’s why we only sell zero-plastic towels made with all-natural fibers.
This isn’t all a judgment call. There are some official sources you can look to as you attempt to determine whether a company is actually green. For example, certified B-corporations must consider the impact of their business on the environment, as well as their workers and communities. We’re proud to have achieved pending B corp status, and you can check for B corp certification for any company here.
Other certifications that can indicate that a company is actually eco-friendly include the following:
– Energy Star certification to indicate energy efficiency
– The Green Seal to indicate general sustainable practices
– CarbonFree or CarbonNeutral labels to indicate low or no carbon impact
– WindMade labeling to indicate companies that get at least three-quarters of their energy from renewable sources
Claims Backed by SEC Filings
If you want to put on your investigative journalist or detective hat for a moment, you may be able to do some digging right from your smartphone. If the company you’re assessing for eco-friendliness is publicly traded, you can check their most recent filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) online.
What are you looking for? Any details about a company’s sustainability initiatives and overall carbon footprint. Publicly traded companies that are truly dedicated to going green have begun to include these details in their SEC filings.
Providing sustainable products and services is hard. Really hard. Even the companies that do this the best still face very difficult decisions when it comes to producing low-environmental-impact products. Many factors contribute to this, such as size of the company and its sales, as well as available solutions. The most important thing for any organization touting their “greenery” is for them to be transparent about what they are doing well and where there’s room for improvement.
Put FiveADRIFT to the ‘Green Company’ Test
We founded FiveADRIFT in 2017 with a single mission: to free our oceans from the chokehold plastic pollution has put them in. That’s why we donate 100% of our profits to plastic pollution prevention and ocean cleanup projects, and it’s why we work so hard to ensure our products and processes are always part of the environmental solution, not the environmental problem.
So, test us. Use the strategies we discussed in this post to assess whether FiveADRIFT is a truly green company. We’re running this company the way we believe all companies should run — in a way that is truly sustainable and friendly to the earth. We’re confident you’ll see that in our products.
To learn more about our sustainability and innovation practices, click here. And if you’re ready to make a purchase that means something for the health of our oceans, shop FiveADRIFT sustainable beach towels or signature tote bags today.