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Greenwashing

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‘Greenwash’ is a pejorative term that some environmentalists and critics use to describe the activity of brands and corporations that portray a positive public image of putatively environmentally unsound practices....

Clownfish
  • 22 january 2007

‘Greenwash’ is a pejorative term that some
environmentalists and critics use to describe the activity of brands and
corporations that portray a positive public image of putatively environmentally
unsound practices. Greenwashing can take many guises ranging from lies of
ommission to misleading labelling systems; from empty mission statements and
voluntary codes of conduct to sustainability reports that offer only partial
disclosure and transparency right through to the arbitrary sponsorship of good
causes and events.

It’s a whitewash of the green
variety, a sham, a hoax, a scandal that dazzles consumers with the blinding
beauty that is GREEN – the holy grail of sustainability – that warm feeling you
get when you do something ‘good’. The power of ‘green’ is so tremendous that it
has often been channelled into another symbol of hope: the good old green
American $: a fast ‘buck’ or two billion wrapped up in a green blanket of hope.

As consumers have become
increasingly aware of environmental and social issues, some brands have found
it hard to resist exploiting and profiting from the emerging ‘green market’. It
is big business.

‘Is that not a good thing?’ I
hear you ask. Well, yes. The green market is prospering for a reason – the
goods and services provided aim at remedying the bleak situation that we have
created for ourselves.

But, in true Tarzan style: green
products GOOD, greenwashing BAD. Greenwashing has a stifling effect. The market
becomes distorted if the information provided is not true, transparent and
fully encompassing, for it cannot represent consumers’ true preferences.

With huge budgets and marketing
power vast corporations can greenwash their way into dominating sections of the
green market without necessarily embracing the values at the heart of the
movement. They often overshadow the true green businesses that are struggling
to gain a foothold in the market. More importantly, greenwashing can also play
a huge role in persuading other businesses to invest in companies that aren’t
as responsible as they portray themselves to be. As a result business is again
denied to the true greens.

Greenwashing is not part of the
environmental movement but a huge environmental problem that will continue to
expand right up to the point that it ‘no longer pays’. Consumers must, and
will, make their choices based on accurate environmental information and
education. They will learn to see the broader picture and come to learn that
car companies that produce one hybrid car and 20 different models of SUV are not
green! Fuel companies that save 0.5 million tonnes of CO2 emissions from solar
power are not green if 1298 million tonnes of CO2 emissions radiate from the
rest of their products!!

Greenwashing is not green marketing. In order to market a green brand then the brand must be green in the first place. Green brand internalise environmental values and philosophy and embed them into their core – not only in the products they produce but in the way they produce them and how they run their business enterprise. Green brands take a serious and holistic approach to the environmental agenda – this is not the case with greenwash power!! Consumers are savvy and once greenwashing has exposed for what it truly is then the carpet will be well and truly swept from under the brands’ feet.

 

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