Discussing and talking about greenwashing may not be a widely preferred topic among may corporations. However, in a world where sustainability is a major concern, it is crucial to increase awareness and promote greater understanding of the issue. Therefore, throughout todays article, I am going to be discussing different aspects of greenwashing, from explaining what it is, how to spot it to giving examples of major corporations who have engaged in greenwashing.
What is greenwashing?
Greenwashing is a marketing and/or public relations practice used by companies to make their products or services appear more environmentally friendly and sustainable than they actually are. It involves making false or exaggerated claims about the environmental benefits of a product or service, in order to appeal to environmentally conscious consumers. By doing this companies hope to improve their reputation as well as their public image.
Identifying greenwashing: tips on how to spot misleading eco-friendly claims
Below are three common ways in which you can spot greenwashing taking place:
Irrelevant claims: Some companies may make claims that are technically true but are not relevant to the product or service, such as claiming a product is "CFC-free" when CFCs were actually banned years ago
Hidden trade-offs: Greenwashing may also involve highlighting aspects of a product that is environmentally friendly while ignoring other negative impacts. For example, a disposable product made from recycled materials may still have a high carbon footprint.
Misleading imagery or language: Some companies may use images or language that suggests a product is more environmentally friendly than it actually is, such as using pictures of trees or flowers on packaging or using the word "natural" when the product actually contains synthetic ingredients.
Corporations that have participated in the misleading tactic of greenwashing
You may think companies must be out of their minds to do this. However, over the past few years there have been several examples of companies that have been accused of greenwashing. Here are five notable examples within different sectors in the business world :
Volkswagen: In 2015, Volkswagen admitted to cheating on emissions tests for its diesel vehicles, making them appear more environmentally friendly than they actually were.
Nestle: Nestle has been criticised for its claims about the sustainability of its products, including its use of palm oil and its impact on deforestation and human rights abuses.
H&M: H&M has been accused of greenwashing for its "conscious collection" of clothing, which it claims is more sustainable, but critics argue that it is still part of the fast fashion industry with significant environmental impacts.
BP: BP has been criticised for its "Beyond Petroleum" campaign, which suggested that the company was moving away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy, while it continued to invest heavily in oil and gas.
McDonald's: McDonald's has been accused of greenwashing for its "green" initiatives, such as using more energy-efficient lighting and recycling cooking oil, while ignoring the environmental impact of its business of selling fast food.
Advantages Vs Disadvantages
Below is a table showing the advantages of greenwashing alongside its disadvantages:
1.It can boost the company’s reputation: It can help a company build a positive image and attract environmentally conscious consumers
2. It can lead to Increased sales: In some cases, consumers are willing to pay more/extra money for environmentally friendly products.
3. It can be cost effective: For some companies it is often cheaper to make claims about being eco-friendly rather than actually implementing it
1. It misleads consumers: It leads to consumers making choices that are not as environmentally responsible as they thought they were.
2. It can damage consumers trust: Greenwashing can damage consumers trust and in turn can harm the companies reputation and image.
3. It decreases the company’s accountability: The act of greenwashing allows for companies to avoid accountability for their environmental impact which in the long run can result in a lack of progress in addressing real environmental issues
This shows that greenwashing would only provide short term benefits for companies. Ultimately, it misleads consumers and harms the environment. It is increasingly important for companies to be transparent and authentic in their environmental claims, not only to their consumers but to themselves as well. This will help society move one step closer towards living in a sustainable community.