With a certified organic industry worth close to $2 billion, demand for Australian organic products is continuing to outweigh supply – at home and abroad. However, greenwashing from companies claiming to be ecofriendly means that many consumers aren’t getting the organic products they’re expecting.
In Australia, companies aren’t required to be certified before labeling products as “organic” – leaving the door open for corporations to include words like “sustainable,” “natural,” “free-range,” and “organic” on their packaging to entice buyers.
According to a recently released report from Australian Organic Ltd, two-thirds of shoppers rely on the use of the word “organic” on a product label to determine if the product is actually organic. But shoppers are getting smarter – in 2014, only 34 per cent checked for a certification logo on the product, and this number is up to 44 per cent in the more recent report.
There are some things you can do to avoid falling victim to greenwashing and ensure your hard-earned dollars are being spent on truly ecofriendly and organic products.
1. Look for substance
While a product’s label might contain all the right buzzwords, consider how these words are used. The word “natural” sounds great, but doesn’t actually give you any real information – natural products can still be harmless to both you and the environment. These words can be used quite broadly by corporations, so think about the context before you make a purchase.
2. Do your research
The internet is a great resource for looking up product ingredients or even for investigating whether or not a particular company has been accused of greenwashing. However, think critically about the information you get from online forums or blogs – this should be taken with a grain of salt, and make up only part of your final decision about the product or company.
3. Examine the packaging
A truly ecofriendly company will be conscious of their environmental impact, so try to purchase products with minimal or recycled packaging. While it’s nearly impossible for a product to be completely green, if the look of a product and the fine print on the packaging matches the claims the company makes about its green-ness, you can feel a little more confident about supporting their products.
4. Get more information
Companies that are proud about their environmental practices will welcome the opportunity to tell you about them – so don’t be afraid to call or send an email asking about their commitment to the planet. Keep in mind that you don’t want to be on the attack – every company should be considered innocent until proven guilty. It’s good to be concerned, but being rude to a customer service agent won’t help you get the information you’re looking for.
5. Check for real certifications
When you see third-party endorsements or certifications on a product, that doesn’t necessarily mean the product is truly environmentally friendly – look at the authority that is providing this certification or endorsement. Remember that a lot of small upstarts might not be officially certified, because they either can’t afford it or haven’t yet had the opportunity to pursue it.