Consumers should be mindful of companies’ greenwashed marketing techniques

With expensive price tags attached to products marketed as “eco-friendly,” leading a sustainable lifestyle can seem unattainable to people on a budget. Dishonest companies are often the root of this issue, making sustainability feel like a luxury.

The ever-growing demand for natural, environmentally-friendly products allows for greenwashed marketing. Companies get away with misleading their customers through false or exaggerated claims and tricky advertising techniques to make themselves appear ‘greener’ than they are.

With society’s focus on our planet’s environmental crisis, companies take greater advantage of the issue by marketing toward the growing popularity of environmentalism.

Many consumers are more accepting of higher prices toward environmentally-friendly products and packaging, as shown in an American study by NYU Stern’s Center for Sustainable Business.

The study revealed sustainability-marketed products made up 50 per cent of consumer-packaged goods (CPG) growth from 2013 to 2018. These products also demonstrated faster growth in 90 per cent of the CPG categories compared to the conventional products examined in the study.

In 2008, the Competition Bureau of Canada deemed greenwashing illegal in their advertising guidelines regarding environmental claims. However, companies have since managed to get away with the use of subtle greenwashing tactics. Nestle is a recent example, being criticized by Greenpeace for promising 100 per cent recyclable packaging by 2025, yet failing to provide evidence of how they plan to achieve this goal.

With guidelines being difficult to regulate, the responsibility has fallen on consumers to identify greenwashed marketing ploys—a difficult skill to develop when conscious consumerism isn’t commonly taught in Canadian schools.

As mindful consumers, we must learn to recognize misleading messages in advertisements and packaging. Otherwise, we risk falling for greenwashing traps and unknowingly supporting a company that’s harming the environment.

It’s easy to take misleading claims or images at face value. We assume a company’s environmental principles by their label, rather than judging them based on facts and data.

These marketing techniques make sustainability feel like another thing to buy. Many consumers assume buying products labeled ‘eco-friendly’ is the best way to help the environment—but consumerism isn’t the solution.

Companies rely on consumers’ willingness to blindly buy products by their label and assume people won’t research the legitimacy or the importance of the brand’s claims. This is damaging to environmentalism’s reputation—it causes sustainability to be perceived as inaccessible to those on a budget.

As consumers, we must adopt mindful shopping habits to work toward creating a more sustainable future. Encouraging companies to adopt environmentally conscious practices is a good first step in this direction.

It’s true that companies can’t be expected to alter their production methods right away. Similarly, we shouldn’t judge ourselves or others for opting for non-sustainable products.

But we as consumers must hold corporations accountable for their actions—true sustainability should be implemented into their policies, rather than meaninglessly promoted for publicity and profit.

Mackenzie is a second-year Film and Media student and is The Journal’s Assistant Arts Editor.

All final editorial decisions are made by the Editor(s)-in-Chief and/or the Managing Editor. Authors should not be contacted, targeted, or harassed under any circumstances. If you have any grievances with this article, please direct your comments to

When commenting, be considerate and respectful of writers and fellow commenters. Try to stay on topic. Spam and comments that are hateful or discriminatory will be deleted. Our full commenting policy can be read here.