Greenwashing is a marketing tool that companies/ organisations use to greenify their product, making them appear far more Environmentally friendly then they actually are for the sake of sales and external appearance.
The term originated in the 1960s when the hotel industry devised one of the most blatant examples of greenwashing. They placed notices in hotel rooms asking guests to reuse their towels to save the environment. The hotels enjoyed the benefit of lower laundry costs.
There are various techniques that companies/ organisations deploy to curate themselves a greener image. These include, but are not limited to:
- Use of fluffy language: Words or terms with no clear meaning
- Green products vs. dirty company: For example, efficient light bulbs made in a factory that pollutes rivers
- Suggestive pictures: Images that give an (unjustified) green impression (e.g., flowers blooming from exhaust pipes)
- Irrelevant claims: Emphasis on one tiny green attribute when everything else is anti-green
- “Best-in-class” boasts: Declaration that you are slightly greener than the rest, even if the rest are pretty terrible
- Designations that are just not credible: For instance, the “greening” of a dangerous product to make it seem safe
- Gobbledygook: Jargon and information that only a scientist could check or understand
- Imaginary friends: A label that looks like a third-party endorsement, except it’s made up
- No proof: A claim that could be right but has no evidence
- Outright lies: Totally fabricated claims or data
In the age of Social media and so-called fake news, greenwashing is now prevalent in everyday life, but companies that have engaged in greenwashing on a wide scale have made headlines over the years too. Oil company Chevron commissioned a series of expensive television and print ads to broadcast its environmental dedication. But while the “The People Do” campaign ran, Chevron was violating the Clean Air Act and Clean Water Act, and also spilling oil into wildlife refuges.
More Recently, Fast fashion brands, such as H&M, have been accused of mass greenwashing in their attempts to create eco clothing collections, with consumers calling out the brands’ lack of manufacturing ethics and the irony of still producing vast quantities of product.