What is Greenwashing? How to Ensure Your Commercial Printing is Sustainable
What is Greenwashing? And How to Ensure You Aren’t Doing It

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June 28, 2024

In today’s environmentally conscious world, businesses are eager to demonstrate their sustainability efforts. From eco-friendly packaging to reducing carbon emissions, sustainable practices are vital to attracting and retaining customers who value environmental stewardship. However, some businesses unintentionally (or sometimes intentionally) overstate their green credentials—a practice known as greenwashing. As a commercial printing company, we recognize how important authentic sustainability is for brands. Let’s break down what greenwashing is and how your business can avoid it.

What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is a marketing tactic where companies falsely promote their products, services, or practices as environmentally friendly. They may exaggerate, omit, or mislead in their messaging and create a false sense of environmental responsibility. While some greenwashing may result from intentional deception, often, it’s the result of poor awareness of sustainable practices.

Examples of Greenwashing

  • Vague Claims – Words like “eco-friendly” or “natural” without clear definitions or supporting evidence.
  • Misleading Labels – Using labels or certifications that imply sustainability without real credentials or rigorous criteria.
  • Selective Disclosures – Highlighting a single green initiative while ignoring significant negative environmental impacts elsewhere.
  • Save Trees, Go Paperless – For every tree harvested for paper, there are 8-12 planted in its place.

The Impact of Greenwashing

Greenwashing is ethically problematic and can also damage a brand’s reputation. Consumers are more savvy and can quickly detect false claims. When exposed, businesses may face backlash, loss of customer trust, and potential legal consequences.

How to Ensure Your Business Isn’t Greenwashing

Avoiding greenwashing requires honesty, transparency, and commitment to sustainable practices. Here’s how your business can maintain credibility while promoting its environmental efforts.

Use Clear and Accurate Language

Be specific in your claims. If your product uses recycled materials, specify the percentage and which parts are recycled.
Avoid vague terms like “green,” “eco-friendly,” or “natural” unless you can provide detailed explanations.

Rely on Credible Certifications

Look for recognized third-party certifications such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) for paper products or ENERGY STAR for energy efficiency.
Make sure the certifications align with your industry and are meaningful to your customers.

Be Transparent About Practices

Communicate your entire production process and its environmental impact.
Share the positive aspects of your efforts and details about progress in all areas.

Commit to Continuous Improvement

Sustainability is a journey. Create actionable goals and benchmarks, then report on your progress.
Regularly audit your practices, looking for ways to improve energy efficiency, reduce waste, or use sustainable materials.

Educate and Empower Your Team

Ensure your employees understand your company’s sustainability values and goals.
Encourage staff to share ideas for improving your practices and reward their contributions.

Align Messaging Across Channels

Consistently apply your sustainability messaging in all marketing channels.
Train customer-facing employees to accurately represent your eco-friendly initiatives.

Partner with Responsible Vendors

Work with suppliers that share your sustainability values. For instance, in the printing industry, choosing paper from responsibly managed forests or ink with vegetable-based components can significantly reduce your environmental impact.
Regularly review your supply chain for alignment with your goals and seek vendors with third-party certifications.

Greenwashing undermines genuine sustainability efforts and erodes consumer trust. By ensuring accurate messaging, embracing transparency, and committing to measurable improvement, businesses can confidently promote their eco-friendly initiatives. As a commercial printing company, we strive to be a reliable partner in your sustainability journey, providing responsibly sourced materials and reducing waste wherever possible.

Whether you are looking for more sustainable materials in partnership with Forest Stewardship Council (FSC), or want to ensure your products are sustainably designed, we are ready to help. Allow NextPage to work as your sustainable commercial printer to build a greener, more sustainable future by embracing honest, impactful sustainability practices that resonate with your customers and create long-term value.

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Phone: (816) 459-8404

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8300 NE Underground Drive
Pillar 122
Kansas City, Missouri 64161

(816) 459-8404

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