So what is Greenwashing?
The term greenwashing, although coined in 1986, is one that is becoming more readily used by younger generations in particular, who are understanding how being ‘sustainable’ is necessary to protect our planet. The simple definition of greenwashing is when a brand or organisation spends more time and money marketing themselves as sustainable and environmentally friendly, rather than actually minimising their impact on the planet.
Greenwashing presents itself in different ways which may include the casual use of terms such as ‘eco-friendly’ without statistics or clear definition, or emphasising on one tiny ‘green’ part of your product or brand when the majority of your offering leaves much to be desired.
Greenwashing in Influencer Marketing
We’re all aware that one of the best ways to promote a new product, especially a beauty or fashion product, is through influencer marketing. If a clothing brand, for example, is releasing a new range of ‘sustainable’ clothing, they may look towards an influencer that presents an interest in fashion and has an engaged audience to promote the new line. However, false claims used in these campaigns could mean negative backlash for both the brand and the influencer.
A recent example of an influencer campaign focussed on sustainability that didn’t receive a wholly positive response is the announcement of a collaboration between H&M and Maisie Williams. Maisie Williams, who first rose to fame when she starred in ‘Game of Thrones’ , now has a large social media presence. She has over 10 million followers, and regularly collaborates with brands to push their products out to a Gen Z audience.
Just over a week ago, Maisie announced that she would be partnering with H&M for its sustainability initiative as the brand’s global sustainability ambassador. However, fans on social media are showing signs of disappointment, calling her out for alleged ‘greenwashing’. Much of the disappointment lies in the fact that H&M is widely known as a fast fashion brand, and to be truly sustainable, their fast fashion element would have to be scrapped.
Social media users look up to influencers and the people they follow as figures they can trust. This is where greenwashing can have a negative impact within the influencer sphere, as the creators’ audiences feel as though they are losing a sense of trust.
Authenticity remains key
Conversations of authenticity are always rife within the influencer marketing community, we heard many discussions on the topic during this year’s Influencer Marketing Show Global. We are aware that there is a market for both sustainable and fast fashion, and there are consumers of influencer content that are interested in content surrounding both of these things. The issue arises when the consumer feels as though they are being misled, as many of us follow influencers expecting honesty, authenticity, factually correct information.
We can hope that looking towards the future, we see brands holding themselves accountable for sharing misinformation surrounding the sustainability of their product, which in turn will make the influencer marketing for these products more transparent and trustworthy. Trust and honesty are what drives sales and builds relationships between brands, influencers, and consumers.