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GREENWASHING AND HOW TO SPOT IT

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I recently reposted an image that represented the very tip of the iceberg when it comes to cruelty-free and vegan products and consumer misinformation (the infographic is here at Ethical Elephant). Depending on the country you live in, certain words can be used in the marketing of products, which can cause you, the customer to make incorrect assumptions. The words 'natural', 'healthy', 'chemical-free' (there are chemicals in everything, YOU are made of chemicals), 'cruelty-free' and 'vegan' are often thrown around with reckless abandon.

You will have probably heard of many companies in the media, that have been stung by consumer commissions. These commissions are setup to protect our consumer rights, and they sometimes have to legally force brandsto change the wording on their advertising and packaging. Despite this, it can still be a confusing minefield on the road to becoming a conscious consumer.

For example do you know what the term 'organic' really means? Organic food should be produced without using "pesticides, fertilisers with synthetic ingredients, bioengineering or ionising radiation" (according to the United States Department of Agriculture). But it as the NZ Herald pointed out, it doesn't mean it's healthier or not highly processed, meaning it may not be as 'natural' as you think it has to be, despite organic food being toted as such.

'Free range' eggs is another term that you might have made wrong assumptions about as in New Zealand there is actually no standard definition to what 'free range' is supposed to mean. This means that brands can use the term and have images ofchickens gleefully running about in giant, lusciously green chicken paradises on their cartons, even if that's not the reality. The Animal Welfare Act states that chickens must have access to an outdoor area, but they may only spend a little time outside and it may be very overcrowded when they do.

These are just some of the many examples of what we now call 'Greenwashing', where a company will paint itself as eco-conscious,cruelty-free or another positiveattributewhen in reality it isn't quite so squeaky clean. They often use the colour green and images of happy families sitting in parks, smiling inanely at each other. Unless you really do your research, it can be difficult to navigate the marketing tactics used so here are a few ways you can make sure you're purchasing and supporting what/who you think you are.

- Utilise the certifications available to you, but find out what those stamps actually mean. What you would ascertain as animal cruelty may not be what the SPCA (or other animal rights organisation) certifies as animal cruelty.

- Read articles with a grain of salt, or even better, dig deeper into those articles. Check their citations/references and try to use sources that are generally recognised as reputable. I personally found this infographicreally helpful. Source here. Remember that is almost impossible to write without bias, whether conscious or unconscious and that it is important to be aware of your own confirmation bias when you're reading about subjects you feel strongly about.

- Vegan does not mean Cruelty-Free. Vegan means that you don't use/consume products made from animals or animal by-products, but this doesn't necessarily mean that animals weren't hurt or tested on in the making of said product.

- Read those labels! Yes it's annoying that labels use the scientific names for ingredients (most of us don't understand them or their Latin origins) but once you figure out what you're looking for or what you're trying to avoid, you'll become a wee badass detective shopper. Most people with allergies have to look for specific ingredients to avoid, it is possible (it just takes practice).

- Find out which companies own other companies (or which bigger ones have bought smaller ones). I recently posted an article that Ethique was featured in, to which many of our perceptiveEthique Warriors noticed that some of the other companies listed were environmentallyconscious but not so conscious much so in other areas.

- Support the companies who align with your own beliefs. It's not only easier to shop that way, it's also a fantastic way to show the power of your choice in the consumer market.

- Follow bloggers, vloggers, Instagramers etc. that inspire you but don't make you feel like a complete failure as a human-being. Remind yourself that those social media posts are beautiful but are only a very small snippet of that person's full life – no-one is perfect and happiness definitelydoesn't come from aspiring to be.

- Figure out what YOU care about, consider what you're REALISTICALLY able to do and make small changes. You will get there, but the chances of it becoming impossible to keep-up are lessened if you realise it can't be done all at once.

If you want to know where Ethique stands on these issues, please check out this page (our ingredients are all vegan, cruelty-free, palm oil free, sustainably sourced and all our packaging is 100% biodegradable). If you have any unanswered questions, email us at hello@ethiquebeauty.com and we'll let you know. We aspire to be as transparent as possible, so you can be informed when purchasing our beauty bars. 

Author: Gen

Gen handles our social media, content creation and works on our website to keep you updated with our new products. She enjoys photography, film, gaming and cooking with her 10 year old daughter. Her hair is probably not still pink.

Favourite Bar:  Saving Face