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What is greenwashing?

8th November 2023

Greenwashing is a term used to characterise the practice of making false or deceptive environmental claims regarding a business, product, or service. These claims can manifest implicitly or explicitly through language, statements, visuals, product names, or even colour choices (typically featuring green).

While most businesses don’t intentionally engage in greenwashing, it often stems from a misunderstanding of how to accurately communicate their genuine sustainability efforts while adhering to consumer protection regulations. Greenwashing is not always malicious, and sometimes, it can simply be a case of poor, inadequate or misleading definitions of terms.

Recognising greenwashing is crucial to prevent unintentionally misguiding customers, which could ultimately harm a company’s reputation over time.

Why is greenwashing a problem?

We all know that trussed rafters are an ideal solution to help fight climate change because wood-based products are both light and strong, which makes them ideal for use in construction, as they are built from wood which can easily be dismantled, reused, and recycled. They are also classed as category 3 in the modern method of construction definition framework which should give any customer the confidence to know that when they are buying trussed rafters for their project, they are making the right choice.

TRA members should ensure customers are aware of the facts about trussed rafters of providing accurate information and can point customers to the TRA’s dedicated page on trussed rafters and learn about the benefits they provide.

Given the above, greenwashing may not be too much of a problem in the trussed rafter industry, but it is good to aware of ambiguous or empty environmental terminology can lead us as consumers as well as businesses, to think we are making eco-friendly choices when, in fact, we are not. This occurs when companies market their products as ‘sustainable’ or ‘environmentally friendly’ without any official validation or supporting evidence.

When customers are misled into thinking a product is more sustainable than it truly is, they are less inclined to support genuinely sustainable businesses and products. This can hinder the transition to a more sustainable economy.

Over time, this can tarnish a company’s reputation, as customers who place their trust in the company may feel deceived. Even businesses with legitimate sustainability credentials can be negatively impacted by greenwashing, facing scepticism, uncertainty, and distrust. It has the potential to harm a company’s standing. When businesses are exposed for greenwashing, they risk losing the trust of their customers and investors, which can have lasting repercussions on their success.

In addition to its potential harm to reputation and customer trust, greenwashing can also affect a company’s ability to attract new talent. Prospective employees often evaluate a company’s commitment to environmental and ethical practices when considering employment opportunities. When a business is perceived as engaging in greenwashing, it may become less desirable to potential hires who seek to align their values with their work. This can hinder a company’s ability to attract and retain top talent.

Ways to avoid greenwashing

Greenwashing is the act of making false or misleading environmental claims about a product or service. It is a growing problem as consumers become more concerned about the environmental impact of their choices.

There are a number of ways that businesses can avoid being victims of greenwashing as well as being greenwashers themselves. Here are a few tips:

  • Look out for third-party certification on products your business buys. This means having an independent organisation verify environmental claims. There are a number of reputable third-party certification organisations, such as the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) and PEFC.
  • Embrace Transparency: Disclose the complete environmental impact of your products or services, encompassing both positive and negative aspects. This should encompass materials, manufacturing processes, transportation, and disposal.
  • Use clear and concise language. Avoid vague or empty environmental terms like “natural” or “eco-friendly.” Instead, use precise language to describe your environmental efforts and substantiate them with evidence.
  • Back Claims with Evidence: Ensure that every environmental claim you make is supported by tangible evidence. Avoid asserting that your product is “carbon neutral” unless you have successfully offset all carbon emissions associated with it.
  • Be responsive to customer feedback. If a customer has a question or concern about your environmental claims, be prepared to answer them honestly and openly.

A sincere commitment to reducing carbon emissions will likely drive substantial and meaningful changes in your business operations.

The TRA is interested in hearing from businesses that have recently worked on their decarbonisation strategy and what having a strategy means to their business. If you are in a position to share this, please email

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Trussed Rafter Association