Is Going Green Just A Phase?

The latest marketing ploy this Valentine’s season is definitely less romantic than expected.

With the day of love just around the corner, the average consumer is bombarded by brands taking advantage of the holiday through product packaging, advertisements, and social media.

While most people try to put their best foot forward on the first date, is it not misleading that companies brand themselves as eco-friendly just so they can get you to take them home?

With climate change concerns on the rise, more and more companies are facing backlash for their not-so-environmentally-friendly practices, from varying types of pollution to factory-produced waste.

Fast fashion companies like Shein, H&M, and Forever 21 took the hardest hit from environmental activists. Unfortunately, the fashion space is not the only industry under fire; rather, it is one of many.

After significant pressure, some companies have started implementing eco-friendly business policies to counteract the effects of climate change and win back consumers.

Eco-friendly refers to anything that does not harm the environment.

To name a few, Patagonia, AllBirds, and TenTree are some of the most sustainable brands to date.

Sustainable companies will ethically source their materials and operate business models that help negate their carbon footprint in regard to manufacturing, packaging, and shipping.

Companies that initially faced backlash for their business models have also started to turn around. For example, in 2015, Home Depot introduced the “no old-growth sales” policy, stating the company would no longer harvest wood from old-growth rainforests.

Companies turning eco-friendly is primarily positive, but some ethical concerns arise from individuals who are skeptical about companies’ true intentions.

“Greenwashing” is the employment of advertisements and marketing techniques that act to deceive the public in believing a company’s products, services, and goals are eco-friendly.

Sarah Datesman, a sophomore nursing student, argues, “Companies claim to be sustainable to grab people’s attention who care about our climate, but there is never proof of those companies being sustainable behind the scenes.”

In 2012, McDonald’s scraped the use of foam products, the first of several policy changes to follow. Subsequently, in 2019, McDonald’s proposed a plan to introduce paper straws in replacement of plastic straws.

While this latest change brought McDonald’s positive publicity, it was later revealed that the sourcing and manufacturing of these paper straws do more harm to the environment than plastic ones.

This story brings forth the question: Are companies eco-conscious, or do they just make it look that way so they can gain a more extensive consumer base?

“Being sustainable for a long period of time can be extremely expensive. Therefore, I feel like companies make small changes to turn eco-friendly but eventually backtrack. Companies need to commit to sustainable practices that actually make a difference,” said Kendal O’Neill, a sophomore health studies student.

Volkswagen is another company guilty of greenwashing after its 2015 reporting scandal. In 2015, Volkswagen was caught cheating on its carbon emissions reports; the US Environmental Protection Agency found that Volkswagen vehicles produced about 40 times more carbon emissions than advertised by the company.

Although Volkswagen claimed they misunderstood the data they collected, the company was considered one of the most affordable and eco-friendly car brands.

This does not mean consumers should not support businesses that advertise to be supporters of low-carbon emissions or eco-friendly. Instead, it calls on consumers to do their research.

Transparency is the key factor to look for when trying to find a sustainable company. Companies that are actually eco-friendly will be proud to share their internal practices that reflect the views they claim to hold.