How To Tell If A Brand Is Ethical Or Sustainable? 8 Ways To Avoid Getting Greenwashed

Here's how to find out if the brand is greenwashing or truly giving back to the planet.

Lately, there have been lots of new sustainable brands coming up. Good for the planet! But with so many sustainable brands coming up with promises of ethically sourced materials, fair-trade wages, transparent supply chains, and other eco-friendly initiatives, how do we as conscious consumers know if we’re being greenwashed? How does a sustainable enthusiast know if their favorite sustainable brand or a newly launched ethical brand is really sustainable?

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Greenwashing is a marketing technique used to try and convince consumers that a product is green or ethical without really minimizing its environmental impact. A classic example of this is the term “recyclable plastic” used by many brands for their packaging. A brand may claim to reduce its environmental impact but 91% of plastic in the world is hardly even recycled. However, there is a lot more good than pure greenwashing bad in the sustainable world. Here’s how you can know if a brand is sustainable or not.

1. Visit their website

man using stylus pen for digital tab, checking website to if a brand is sustainable Pexels

A sustainable brand’s website should be all about transparency. Here are a few questions (and their answers) to look for ~

  • What do sustainability and ethics really mean to the brand?
  • Is the sustainable brand transparent about its sourcing, supply chain, and tie-ups?
  • Is the brand associated with any environmentally friendly initiatives or NGOs?
  • What does the brand say about its ingredients, fabrics, or workers?

For example, if you are reading the website of a ethical clothing brand, look for what fabrics they use, where they get their textiles from, and what dyes they use?

2. Know what exactly you are looking for

Sustainability is quite a subjective term. You have to know what kind of ‘sustainable’ or ‘ethical’ you are looking for. It could be sustainable clothing, slow fashion, vegan beauty, or fairtrade. For instance, if you are looking for makeup products without animal derivatives or made without exploiting animals, go for vegan or cruelty-free makeup brands. If you are looking for a brand that treats its employees well and provides them a comfortable living wage, look out for fair trade brands.

3. Standards and certifications

Any brand can claim to be ethical, sustainable, or anything that’s good for the planet. But the best way to tell if they are doing so is by seeing if a third party thinks the same. For example, if it is a sustainable fashion brand, look for third-party certifications like Peta-approved, B Corp, Better Cotton Initiative, OEKO-TEX, and many more on that sustainable clothing brand’s website. You can always look for these in the About Us or under the product list.

Writer’s note- Getting certified is pretty hard and expensive, and not feasible for small businesses or newly launched brands that are absolutely green. This is where some good stalking & listening to social media comes in!

4. It’s time to do some stalking

social media apps on phone
Tracy Le Blanc/ Pexels

We all have been there and done that (if you know, you know 🤭). So it’s time to put that stalking skill into good use. You’ll learn a lot by paying a little attention to the brand’s social media page. You will get to know how serious that sustainable brand is about our planet by its way of addressing social and environmental issues (if at all) and how it responds to social media inquiries about sustainability from the fans.

5. Use apps or sustainable browsers

App and website Good On You rank tons of eco-friendly brands according to various environmental aspects. Renoon is best for eco-friendly clothing. It gives all the reliable information about your favorite sustainable clothing companies. Eco-friendy browser extensions like DoneGoodNeutralFinch, etc. will also help you shop more sustainably. This one is our favorite way to discover new ethical and eco-friendly brands.

Related Article: 7 Browser Extensions To Help You Shop More Sustainably

6. Learn where the brand stands on its mission

No one is perfect here, but striving to be better is all that matters. You can read about a brand’s mission toward sustainability on their ‘About Us’ or ‘Our Story’ page. We love how Girlfriend Collective, a sustainable loungewear brand, is spot on when it comes to transparency and answering questions without beating around the bush.

7. Follow sustainable brands and bloggers

person hand weaving things
Karolina Grabowska/ Pexels

Thanks to social media, there are so many good people out there who are trying to help us make informed choices. You can follow sustainable brands, blogs, and sustainable fashion Instagrammers to see what they’re saying about your favorite lifestyle brands. You can also subscribe to newsletters by sustainable brands. A few of our favorite sustainable blogs are ~

8. Ask the brand

Remember, as a consumer, you can always ask questions about the brand. If you are not getting the answer you are looking for, then drop the brand an e-mail seeking answers. Truly sustainable companies would love to provide you with more information.

Or save yourself all the trouble and follow our GoodGuide to discover sustainable companies, sustainable fashion brands, eco-friendly products, eco-friendly clothing, clean beauty products, tips for sustainable living, and many more.

We hope these tips have helped shed some light on knowing if a brand is sustainable and how you can shop sustainably without being greenwashed. In the end, each one of us can make an impact on the future of our planet. We just have to take the first step and make a conscious effort toward sustainability. It isn’t easy, but it’s worth it.

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