Greenwashing – Don’t Be Fooled!

The term greenwashing comes from the expression brain washing. It refers to corporations that try to deceive customers by giving their brands or products a positive environmental image, when in fact there is no truth in the claim.

The movement to organic products has grown substantially in developed markets like the UK and the US and unfortunately the industry has attracted hitch hikers globally. These “hitchhikers” are trying to cash in on the organic trend and so twist the truth by coining their products as “natural” or “organic.” The uninformed consumers knows no better and consequently line the pockets of the greenwashers as they stock up their bathroom shelves with these “natural products.”

It is widely accepted in the industry that many consumers buy organic beauty products under the misconception that the products are held to organic food standards. In actual fact, any manufacturer is able to claim that their product is organic without adhering to any regulations or abstaining from using any synthetic ingredients, as organic simply means that a compound contains carbon. By using this definition, a manufacturer could say that a “toxic petrochemical preservative called methyl paraben is ‘organic’ because it was formed by leaves that rotted over thousands of years to become oil.” (New Vegetarian and Natural Health)

In the same breath there are no actual standards for what “natural” means either. Sure, a manufacturer may have a product with a few good natural ingredients in it, but those natural ingredients could be used with a variety of synthetic ingredients. Furthermore, there are actually two definitions of natural. The dictionary defines it as “anything existing in or formed by nature” while the cosmetic industry defines the word as “any ingredient derived from a natural substance”. There is an important difference between the two and the product can still be marketed to the unsuspecting customer as natural and so on.

There are many examples of products that do this is South Africa. The following products and ranges like Annique, The Body Shop, Organics Shampoo, Nature Fresh and Aloe Verox sound like they are organic but if you look closer at the ingredient lists, all of these products contain contentious synthetic ingredients like parabens and propylene glycol. These manufacturers may not be deliberately trying to trick you, but most of these products can be found in Health Shops and have natural images and so it can be expected that a customer will assume that these products are more natural than say, the Pick and Pay house brand, when in fact they are often not at all.

Of course not every non-organic company is out to get you. There are many manufacturers who argue, and may also genuinely believe that some of the controversial synthetic ingredients in their products are used in too smaller quantity to cause any real damage. The problem is that if you’re after organic products that do not contain synthetic ingredients, then you cannot rely on the label alone as you will duped by the marketing of the products. The solution to having the wool pulled your eyes is to become an ingredient detective – and we’ve made that very easy for you to do by the way!

So you may ask yourself – how do we at Faithful to Nature define organic? For us it is more than just about being certified by a third party or abstaining from using synthetic ingredients. It is about sustainability and responsibility. It is about being aware that we put in, is what we get out. Simply put, we believe that organic should be good for you. This means that we will not sell any products that to the best of our knowledge are harmful to you or the environment. It does mean however that there is a mix of certified organic, organic and natural products on the website. Some certified organic products do contain synthetic (man made) ingredients as do a very few natural products, but I have individually read up on each ingredient to ensure that it is not harmful to you. If there is a certain category of product that you prefer then always check the ingredient lists in every product detail page for more information.

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