Ep13: When I thought greenwashing was violating, but then something worse happened after!

  • Time 4 min
  • Date September 1, 2020

“With sustainable living gaining popularity, marketers use such ‘buzzwords’ to get noticed.”

“The police are here, Megha ma’am.” said Raju, the support staff.

We were in a meeting and boss lady looked up with an annoyed expression, “I thought I told you not to involve the cops.” I shook my head puzzled “I did not….” I wondered who had. As I walked towards the reception area, the afternoon flashed before my eyes.

It had begun with an impromptu lunch at the newly opened restro-bar which had received rave reviews on social media. We had to check it out.

As we waited for our order to arrive, Sanaya revelled in her new organic cream purchase only to have Manan, a senior colleague, scoff at the term. “Organic? My foot!”, he exclaimed. “One more victim of greenwashing.”

Ehh? Green wash?

I was about to ask when Mallika made her presence felt with, “Yup!” Before I could call out her bluff, an annoyed Manan said, “I hate it when companies mislead consumers touting claims of safe, non-toxic, eco-friendly and natural products, when in reality they are not”. Ruchi calmed him down. “They’re only riding the wave. With sustainable living gaining popularity and people becoming more conscious of what they’re putting money into, marketers use such ‘buzzwords’ to get noticed.”

“Beware”, continued Manan, “natural too means nothing.” I agreed saying, “I had read that a formula with just 5% natural ingredients can also be labelled natural.”

Ruchi argued, “How can it be natural with synthetic ingredients?” She had a point. Mallika stood up and declared, “Natural is safer and non-toxic”. I shook my head again, “Not always.” I said, I once had a moisturiser labelled natural that gave me a severe allergy.” Mallika began to hint at the product being a dupe. Ugh! of course, Mallika pulling off a Mallika.

Manan had the look of a vindictive man, “Probably a reaction to some essential oil.” Mallika shut her mouth.

While the conversation moved to other things, Mallika still harboured a desire to win brownie points, “I only use organic products.” When asked to define organic, a confident Mallika uttered, “Oh, that’s a product grown and created without the use of synthetic preservatives or pesticides. I always check for organic certification.”


“I was laughing at something Ruchi said when it happened.”

Taking a swig of her beer, Ruchi voiced, “But that’s not enough, you know.   Organic certification is only about the source of an ingredient — not its safety on skin.”

Manan clarified, “A product may claim to be natural and organic, but that does not make it safe, you know.” Mallika’s face shrunk like a prune and that look gave me more joy than my steak.

I added some fuel, “Apparently, for a product to be considered organically derived, it needs at least 70% organic ingredient. What’s the balance 30%?” Manan smiled, “That’s a secret!”

Sanaya, who is vegan, revealed, “There are many issues surrounding vegan products too. Talking about PETA guidelines and the honesty of a company, she said, “Even if the product and ingredients are not tested on animals, they may still contain animal ingredients or by-products.” Manan agreed and further explained, “And a vegan shampoo free from animal ingredients or by-products can not be cruelty-free if tested on animals.”

“It’s a double-edged sword. Remember the furore over toxicity in Ayurvedic products.” I said. Mallika now had a chance over me, “Preservative-free doesn’t mean less toxic. I wouldn’t want germ-contaminated products on my skin.” Finally came the lethal blow, “Like products there are people also, you know… who make false claims and statements. Sadly, we can’t do much about them.” While the others perhaps did not get it, I knew who the barb was pointed at. You do too, right?

The lunch had just become even more interesting! Had it not been for the afternoon scheduled meeting, we could have stayed on longer.

We were at the crowded intersection and I was laughing at something Ruchi said when it happened. I felt a hand touch me inappropriately. It happened so fast that I was unable to react. I took a step forward and felt that touch again. I turned around in a flash to see the insolent smile of the man. A smile that had perhaps been flashed many times before.

Would he get away with it this time too? Did I want to be another conquest for this man? Or did I have it in me to wipe that nasty smile off his face?

Are you being greenwashed?

  • Your favourite ‘natural’ formula can have just 5% natural ingredients
  • Organic ≠ safe for your skin
  • A vegan formula may not be cruelty-free (and vice-versa)