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Does Greenwashing Affect your Consumption?

Climate change is a very sensitive topic for some and it is a very serious matter; with the global temperature rising, the ocean getting warmer and ice sheets shrinking the world is spiraling out of control and it is down to the younger generations to change it. Some may call it a climate emergency. Some facts to highlight the crisis we are in are presented to you. The first one is that two-thirds of extreme weather events were influenced by humans. Another heartbreaking one is that the average wildlife population has dropped by 60% in just over 40 years. This article is going to be taking a deeper look into businesses and greenwashing. Before reading this article, how many companies that you buy from do you believe are truly sustainable?

Greenwashing explained

If you don't already know what Greenwashing is, it is when a company is accused of falsely claiming that they are more environmentally friendly than it really is. Unfortunately now this is very common in many large and small businesses which reduces the trust, we as consumers, have in businesses. Businesses greenwash to compete with their competitors and to meet the demand of being sustainable, however, they do not take the appropriate actions to do what they stated.

Real life greenwashing cases

A well-known example of a business that has greenwashed is McDonald's greenwashing their customers when they introduced the new paper straws. It is hard to believe that a business as large as McDonald's would get away with this happening for a while before legal action was taken. When the campaign was first released they were seen as a very sustainable stakeholder, however, with time people grew to learn that the paper straws were not recyclable and their sourcing and manufacturing raised many questions. This resulted in Mcdonald's receiving lots of backlash from the public.

Another company that was caught Greenwashing in 2015 is Volkswagen. They were caught faking it's emissions reports more than once of its Diesel vehicle. This had serious repercussions and it led to several lawsuits and billions in fines. For many years Volkswagen was seen as one of the lowest emitters in the combustion engine market until the US Environmental Protection Agency realised that the cars produce up to 40 times more emissions than advertised.

To enforce rules and regulations on businesses the government and the CMA introduced the "Green Claims Code" in 2021. The CMA (competition and markets authority) introduced the green claims code as part of a wider campaign to raise awareness to make sure businesses knew the rules clearly and consumers weren't being misled.

Greenwashing is particularly common in many fast fashion brands as they receive lots of backlash in the media and it is a way to combat it. However, a popular fashion brand called H and M was sued for making false claims to its customers. H and M were using a scorecard system to inform customers about the lack of environmental impact their products were having on the environment. After Quartz did an article on the scorecards and stated that more than half of the products portrayed products as being better for the environment than they were, H and M decided to remove the scorecard system. This is a great example of a way that large companies can use fake facts to entice you as a consumer to buy their products.

My say

Unfortunately, greenwashing is happening more and more, just so businesses can 'stay on trend' but avoid the costs of being truly sustainable. After reading this article, reflect on the first question asked which was "how many companies that you buy from do you believe are truly sustainable?". I now want to ask you if your answer to this has changed. Let me know your thoughts in the common section as I would love to hear your opinions on greenwashing in businesses.

Eva Rogers.


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