How to avoid ‘greenwashing’ in your beauty copywriting

Brands are responsible for making truthful claims in their beauty copywriting, however, many don’t. While incorrect beauty claims about topics like product safety affect consumers and degrade their trust in cosmetic regulators, misleading ‘greenwashed’ statements about sustainability can be damaging to genuine environmental progress. Whether it’s caused by confusion, a lack of knowledge, or actively trying to deceive consumers, it should never be considered okay. Here’s how you can make rock-solid environmental claims for your beauty brand and contribute to better communication in the beauty industry.

Hold evidence to support your claims

If you’re going to make a claim, you must have appropriate evidence to back it up. If a regulator asks you how you came to a conclusion or why you made an environmental claim, there’s going to be absolutely no excuse if you don’t have anything to support it. Depending on the claim you’re making, evidence might include:

  • Legitimate certifications or adhering to standards,
  • Documentation from manufacturers,
  • Verified information from suppliers,
  • Complete supply chain details,
  • Traceable environmental impact statements.

Provide context in your beauty copywriting

Beauty copywriting is about building an exciting narrative to appeal to consumers. Brands spend so much time and effort on creating commercial claims and stories to build excitement around ingredients, formulations, or innovations. But when it comes to sustainability and environmental impact claims, these stories often sound vague, dry, or nonsensical. A brand could come across this way because of:

  • A lack of confidence in making strong claims,
  • Not understanding the specifics of what they’re saying,
  • Being unsure about the consumer’s level of knowledge,
  • Struggling to transform scientific information into creative copy,
  • Wanting to appeal to everyone instead of focusing on the brand’s ideal target market (and what they know or care about in terms of sustainability).

If a brand can use valid information to contextualise a claim in a reader-friendly way, that’s a fantastic result.

As an example, you could copywrite an in-depth story about a raw material’s production. Explain details about who works at the farm or crop, where it’s located, what’s special about that area, how their production method is contributing to environmental innovation, and what evidence supports this ingredient’s sustainability claims. It builds the story of the ingredient’s journey from the crop to your final product. It’s personal, specific, and most critically, truthful.

Be specific when making claims

It’s not helpful to say anything like ‘greener’, ‘more environmentally friendly’, or ‘better for the planet’ without providing background information. If you’re going to make a comparison, it should be fair, truthful, and evidence-based. Brands shouldn’t claim anything is inherently “better” without explaining how that is the case. Consider:

  • What evidence supports this claim?
  • How was this claim made?
  • What limitations exist within this claim?
  • Is there any important information missing from the claim that could change it?

For example, you might have a product packaged in a plant-based jar instead of a plastic jar. It’s tempting to draw on the negative perceptions of plastic and plainly claim a plant-based jar is better. Is it better because it’s not plastic? Or is it better because it’s a more renewable resource? Have you also considered any drawbacks: is it 100% recyclable in every market it’s sold in? Based on current waste and recycling infrastructure, the answer is probably no. And perhaps it takes more water to produce than plastic. Are you comparing overreliance on plastic to water scarcity, and is that a fair comparison?

When you think about environmental claims critically, you’ll realise there’s more to it than blanket “it’s better” statements.

Amy Hadley

Amy Hadley is a beauty copywriter with a background in print journalism, digital media, public relations, and eCommerce. As someone contributing to the beauty industry, she encourages her clients to use words creatively, sincerely, and responsibly. This is to promote more honest and thoughtful communication in the beauty industry, and better serve its consumers.

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