What is Greenwashing, and why is it so bad?
In the current global climate of a thirst for a rise sustainability, in conjunction with company's desire to remain competitive, the concept of Greenwashing has worked its way in to the operations of many brands we know and love. Greenwashing is happening right under our noses, which is why it's important to understand what it is, and how to spot it.
What is Greenwashing?
The concept of Greenwashing involves the deception of a consumer into believing that a product they may be interested in purchasing has a more beneficial impact on the environment than it actually does. it may be that the product simply claims to be environmentally friendly, or could also be a company's attempt to cover up their unsustainable production practices by labelling their products as environmentally friendly.
Greenwashing as also been described as an attempt to capitalise on the current ever-increasing roaring trade for environmentally friendly products. This can be seen as attractive for a company in terms of increases sales and revenues and potentially gaining the loyalty of more consumers. Below are some factors that contribute to making a product considered environmentally friendly:
According to the concept of Greenwashing, in reality, the effects of the company's attempt to capitalise on the desire for sustainable products is only surface level. The claims they make are not supported by the action of making impactful changes to decrease negative climate change. Their objective is to appear environmentally friendly to appeal to consumers and subsequently increase revenues.
How to spot Greenwashing
There are multiple ways you can identify a product that has been subject to Greenwashing. Below is a list of things to consider when you next make a purchase:
Examples of Greenwashing
There have been many public displays of Greenwashing, especially in recent years. Being made aware of some examples of how it has happened with some well known brands, can help with identifying it easier in the future.
In 2021, the popular high street fashion brand H&M, were subject to Greenwashing scrutiny by Changing Markets Foundation for their insincere sustainable fashion claims. This involved their 'Conscious' labelled products being almost entirely misleading. It was found that 96% of their claims did not hold up to being as sustainably responsible as they said.
The seemingly 'innocent' drinks brand were called out in 2022 for their insincere television adverts that promoted the importance of recycling and have since been banned. Behind the scenes, Innocent are actually owned by Coca-Cola, the worst contributors to plastic pollution in the world, who use single use plastic for their products.
In 2020, Ryanair were brought back to reality by the Advertising Standards Authority for their false claims about their low emissions and also claimed to be the lowest emissions airline in the UK. The adverts have since been banned due to their false and untrustworthy nature.
Volkswagen admitted to a very extreme case of Greenwashing where they cheated on emission tests by fitting some of their cars with a device equipped with software that could detect the occurrence of an emissions test and accordingly alter the emissions to low level.
What have we learnt?
So, by now you should know what Greenwashing is, why it is so bad and how to identify as a consumer. Awareness of these factors will help to reduce the effects Greenwashing has on the consumer and steer companies away from committing a Greenwashing crime. This is a step towards a greener, cleaner future for the planet we live in and an increase in genuine and sincere environmentally friendly products and their respective marketing and PR campaigns.