When I first heard the term ‘label fatigue’, I felt very seen. The term certainly resonated. I am the sort of shopper who prefers seeing a label such a ‘less carbon’ on my teabags, than seeing no label at all. In my mind, the label, no matter how vague, nebulous or unintelligible it is, it justifies the probably superfluous purchase that I am about to make. Do I need to understand the label’s promises? No.
Certainly, there are too many labels; plastered all over cleaning products, teabags, electricity bills… I could go on. The average consumer (me, for example) is highly unlikely to know: a) what the label really means, and b) whether this distinguishes the product as a more ethical option than a different label. Truly, I am never really sure if ‘compostable’ or ‘biodegradable’ is better. Are they the same? Whilst we are on that, should I be using paper towels or the hand dryer? Am I a particularly uneducated consumer? I am quite sure I am not alone. We have good reason to feel exhausted by all of these labels. In 2014, the
Reviewing greenwashing in the energy sector
Considering the above, it doesn’t altogether come as a surprise that the label of ‘green’ doesn’t actually mean ‘100% green’ when it comes to the energy we consume. That is correct: your energy provider uses the word green, whilst procuring energy from fossil fuels. Providing the energy provider ‘offset[s] by purchasing enough certificates called Renewable Energy Guarantees of Origin’ then this is, currently, satisfactory. However, these certificates can be ‘traded cheaply on a secondary market’.
As of August 16th 2021, the British government are reviewing the transparency of the energy sector and the extent to which They will also be reviewing whether the rules surrounding what can be called a ‘green tariff’ are suitable. Proposed changes include changes to the aforementioned certificates being ‘smarter’. Suppliers may also have to include information about the type of energy used, and where and when the energy was generated.
But is this enough? Does being truthful and open mean that companies should be including negative information on their products? Surely the deliberate omission of adverse information is as damaging to informed consumer choices as misleading positive information? Naturally omissions are much more difficult to identify and therefore applying consequences would be very tricky indeed.
Another question to ask is: s With 52% of 18-25 year olds reporting that they ‘keep an eye’ on the business practices of companies they buy from, the demands for transparency are becoming louder. Companies may have hoped that label fatigue would be an “enduring trend… [in the hope] that consumers are tired of learning what 30 different labels in one sector mean, and that [would] all just think: ‘Any claim of sustainability is an improvement over However, with the help of government intervention and changing values among young people, greenwashing is becoming more clearly understood as damage-inflicting and regressive for our society.
Energy and clean growth minister, Anne-Marie Trevelyan, says she wants ‘people to know when they sign up to a green tariff, they are investing in companies that make a conscious choice to invest in That is certainly desirable, but is more a minimum standard than an aspiration.
Ultimately, the crackdown on greenwashing in the energy sector is a step in the right direction; but, we need to be sprinting in the right direction if we really are going to be net zero by 2050.