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Encyclopedia entry - Nanine Roth - October 25, 2021 - 2 min reading time
Cosmetic bag in front of leaf

Not everything that is green is also sustainable. Those who claim ecological awareness (or product packaging) sell better. Often enough, however, greenwashing is hidden behind this.

What is greenwashing?

Greenwashing means the deliberate "greenwashing" of products and companies: In this way, a company presents itself and its goods in a sustainable light to promote sales - without actually switching to more ecological business practices.

This is done, for example, through:


Often, the company also advertises with statements that are correct, but only concern a small part of the product or range or disregard other, essential aspects:

  • "with organic cotton" does not say anything about the percentage - it can also be only a small percentage made of organic cotton. At the same time, the working conditions during production are ignored.
  • "Green electricity tariff" often consists of only a small share of renewable energies
  • "made from bamboo viscose": viscose is a very chemical- and energy-intensive manufacturing process and the product probably comes from the Far East (transport routes, questionable working conditions).
Green hand
Green image - but what's behind it?

How do I recognise greenwashing?

It is often very difficult to recognise greenwashing:

Those who are not familiar with seals and legal requirements (terms) have a hard time with them. Often greenwashing can only be recognised with knowledge about the company, not directly on the product.

On the other hand, it is not easy, especially for large companies, to switch to truly sustainable processes in a short time. Here the question arises: When is it greenwashing? When is it a genuine effort that can/must/should be rewarded?

How can I avoid greenwashing?

White tube in front of green leaf
How can I tell how sustainable the product really is?

The two most important questions when buying a ("green") product should be:

  • Do I really need it?
  • Is the product itself sustainable (= durable, sensible, as plastic-free as possible)?

Beyond that, you can ask yourself:

  • Which certificates are available?
  • How concrete are the company's statements?
  • How transparent are the business practices?
  • How comprehensive are the sustainability efforts?
  • What other products does the company offer?