If you think greenwashing is limited to retail or fashion, think again. It’s rampant in the construction industry. So buying the right materials requires a lot of diligence, writes Victoria Brocklesby

Brand after brand within the retail and packaging spaces is being undone by ‘greenwashing’ claims. Just look at Coca Cola, Unilever, Tesco and H&M among others. Yet greenwashing isn’t just limited to these sectors; it’s rife within the construction industry too. It’s just no one was talking about it, until now.

For many, greenwashing is a deceitful marketing tactic intended to deliberately mislead customers. For others, it can happen even when there are good intentions, like when the messaging is not clear enough or if the company is not thorough enough in its sustainability policies across all aspects of its business.

Greenwashing in the construction industry is challenging to identify. Terms like “eco”, “green”, “sustainable”, “non-toxic” and “recyclable” are often used vaguely or with unclear language on websites, marketing materials, and social media posts. Superficial claims lacking substantiation are common. Trusting brands blindly is no longer an option, necessitating self-education on the sustainability aspects of products and services to prevent exploitation.

I have seen businesses manipulate product information to ensure they “meet” industry regulations. This includes exaggerations of the time and money spent on upgrading products to be more thermally efficient, when in fact, they have simply added an extra pane of glass to a window. While this does achieve the short-term aim, it’s a quick fix and has long term implications, such as making the product more expensive for the consumer, and less environmentally friendly due to more materials being used.

This continues into the recyclability of products. We have seen UPVC manufacturers, who solely use long-lasting plastic, speak about how they recycle, but in practice, recycling it is incredibly challenging. Materials made from something called uPVC – unplasticised polyvinyl chloride – do not decompose, making them difficult to eliminate, with 83 percent of UPVC waste going to landfill, according to the WWF.

This means identifying greenwashing requires diligence. Accreditations play a vital role in establishing trust, allowing people to assess a company’s commitment to ethics and sustainability. It can be useful to look for third-party recommendations from reputable organisations, rather than self-appointed accolades. Consumers should pay attention to product-focused industry accreditations, while industry professionals should seek certifications demonstrating commitments to quality and sustainability, such as ISO 9001 for quality or ISO 14001 for environmental standards.

Source: City AM

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