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What is Green Washing? Exposing the Green Sheen

Given the current state of the environment, it is becoming clear that companies can benefit financially from implementing sound environmental practices.

Green business practices not only attract new clients who are concerned about the environment, but they also let companies enjoy a positive reputation with present customers. Government regulations also aid such businesses’ expansion and assist them if they adopt green practices.

The majority of consumers around the world are willing to pay more for better societal and environmental brands.

Although this is encouraging news, customers are becoming less inclined to trust larger companies. This is so because the majority of “green” claims made by big businesses are dubious or false.

Green Sheen

What Is Greenwashing?

When a business advertises its non-eco-friendly goods or services in a way that makes them appear environmentally friendly, the practice is known as “greenwashing” or putting a “green sheen” on a company.

Even though companies say they may be doing business in ways that don’t harm the environment, in reality, they might have an environmental impact.

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Riding The Green Wave

Greenwashing

The claim that a company’s products are kind to the environment may have helped them make a lot of money. Through green marketing, businesses get more customers and make more money.

After all, most people want to do right by the environment.

To convince people to purchase a brand or product these days, a lot of greenwash marketing is used. As such, greenwashing appears to be a growing trend.

Greenwashing can help a company hide unpleasant facts about how its product or service works, but it harms the environment and customers’ trust in the long run.

Types of Greenwashing

Paintbrush and Green Paint

A “greenwashing” company might be one that takes credit for an already-used manufacturing process and acts as if it was done to follow an environmentally friendly rule.

For instance, a company could stop packaging items in shrink wrap to save money but says it is doing its part for the environment.

A company can claim that its product doesn’t cause harmful effects to the environment when in use, but also neglect to mention the harm inflicted on the environment while manufacturing it.

Companies even lie about how eco-friendly a product is by using phrases like “best in class”, and “eco-friendly,” packaging with pictures of green meadows and flowers.

The sad thing is this works.

This instance of greenwashing is appalling because it preys on peoples’ notions of being eco-friendly by simple imagery.

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What Is Greenwashing In Marketing?

Nowadays greenwashing in marketing can be put into several categories, but here are the five most common ones:

Environmental Imageries

Pictures of trees and animals and ostensibly “green” packaging are two of the most common ways to “greenwash.” Products that are genuinely good for the environment tend to come in simple and plain packaging that is easily recyclable or biodegradable.

False Green Labels 

There are labels on some products like “Certified,” “100% organic,” etc., but these labels often don’t provide any additional details to support their claim.

Hidden Trade-offs

Corporations may try to look like they care about the environment and are sustainable, but they often make trade-offs that aren’t good for the environment. 

Although some clothing manufacturers claim to use “natural” or “recycled” materials, the methods used to make the clothes aren’t quite as green or sustainable.

Legit firms, however, would provide additional information regarding things like their energy consumption, water quality, greenhouse gas emissions, and other factors.

Irrelevant Claims

Some products’ labels may say they don’t contain any listed compounds because they care about the environment. But it doesn’t help if using the materials mentioned above is already against the law.

For example, you may also have seen product labels that say “not tested on animals” in places where it is against the law not to test on animals anyway.

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Sins of pretending you’re “Going Green”

Holding Plastic Cups

Secrecy regarding products

This is the practice of determining a product’s “greenness” based on a small number of features instead of a broader range of critical environmental concerns.

One of the most common things is shampoo. Even though the label might say that one brand of shampoo is better for the environment than other products because it contains organic ingredients, this is not always true.

Instead, customers may find it bad for them and the environment because it has chemicals and other ingredients that are not always mentioned, or it may just be lacking one harmful chemical in a bevy of harmful chemicals.

No proof of green credentials

A company may have an environmental claim that a trustworthy third-party certification can’t or won’t back up. For example, when purchasing tissues or toilet paper, people frequently fail to search for evidence of eco-friendliness.

These products are readily usable but may contain some post-consumer recycled material, which the manufacturers don’t have to show proof of as it’s already used.

Not being straightforward

The phrase “all-natural” sounds good but means nothing. Lots of things are natural. Arsenic, uranium, mercury, and formaldehyde can all be found in nature and are all dangerous.

Some types of marketing that supposedly care about the environment can be hard to understand because words like “green,” “environmentally friendly,” “eco-friendly,” “green Packaging,” and “eco-conscious” might be challenging to comprehend and can all be used in relative terms.

Comparison of competitors

If we compare the company’s products to those of its competitors, we may find that they are better. But that doesn’t mean they are always the best choice for the eco-conscious customer. Organic cigarettes made from tobacco and SUVs that use less gas are two examples. This is an example of how a company might use “greenwashing” to make customers forget the bad things about their products.

Cigarettes still cause health issues. All SUVs have terrible gas mileage compared to smaller cars.

Lying about a product

Lies. These greenwashing claims have nothing to do with reality. One of the most common types is a product that says it is certified or registered by Energy Star when it is not.

Caring too much about labels

Customers are told that the product they bought has been through an actual green certification process, which might not be true. This could make someone think that the company uses natural resources, is carbon neutral, and other similar things without having the proper certification.

Fixing problems by creating more problems

The oil and gas industry (OGI) talks about hydraulic fracturing (fracking) as though it’s a green new way of accessing fossil fuels. It just isn’t. It’s filthy.

Fracking is a drilling technology used to extract oil or natural gas deep underground. In fracking, water, chemicals, and sand are sprayed at tremendous pressure into Earth’s fractures. The way OGI does hydraulic fracking is terrible for the environment.

According to claims from the OGI, fracking will bring more economic growth and mineral rights to rural areas that aren’t very well developed, which will make them rich. Still, communities are often left just as poor, with lasting environmental effects that can’t be fixed, despite the false promises.

Lying publicly

This plan keeps people from trying to go green through bare-faced lies to protect non-green interests.

Critics say that ecological modernity is impossible and that any effort to make it happen would harm the economy. So why bother going green?

The fact is ecological modernity doesn’t harm the economy – it actually helps it!

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Why is Greenwashing a Social Problem?

Lightbulb and Greenwash

Greenwashing techniques harm businesses, the environment, and customers in general. Customers are less likely to trust any sort of eco-pledge and have more difficulty figuring out which brands to trust.

According to recent research, even including an image of nature in greenwash marketing materials can improve consumer perception of the product.

One green image can improve public perception of the business, which is preferable to what would happen if the same advertising campaign had been run without any depictions of nature.

This results from manufacturers’ claims that their products are beneficial for the environment. The rights that come with “green” products, in general, have become less clear and more questionable.

How Does a Company Greenwash?

Money and Plants

Greenwashing, which is also called “green sheen,” is something that happens all the time.

Greenwashing is done in many ways; it includes a business getting ahead of product claims, propaganda, rebranding, detailed knowledge about a product, consumers’ perceptions of the company’s credibility, and consumption data.

Businesses in many fields, like food, fast fashion brands, and travel, use greenwash marketing strategies on social media.

Some companies aren’t as honest as others, and they take advantage of customers’ growing desire for environmentally friendly products and services to make false environmental claims. They talk about the eco-friendliness of their products, the sustainability of their business practices, and so on.

They have to use positive language and make sustainability claims that their products are best suited for the environment and have benefits in green initiatives. These claims aren’t always true.

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Greenwashing Examples

Here are a couple of famous examples of greenwashing practices by companies that should know better:

  • ExxonMobil, an American oil and gas company with operations worldwide, does things that show it is greenwashing. ExxonMobil said it was reducing its greenhouse gas emissions but putting out more.
  • Volkswagen is known for probably the best-known case of “greenwashing” in recent years. The Environmental Protection Agency discovered that this major automaker lied on emissions tests to make it appear that their vehicles produced less pollution than they actually did. They had added something to their diesel engines that made it challenging to figure out the amount of pollution they were producing. As a result, they lied to their customers about the pollution and carbon dioxide their automobiles produced.
  • In 2008, the Malaysia Palm Oil Council ran a TV ad that made it look good from an environmental point of view. Skeptics pointed out that palm oil plantations are strongly linked to the extinction of rainforest species, habitat destruction, pollution, poor health, and other nasty things. It was found that the ad didn’t follow ad rules.

How Important Is It to Stop Greenwashing Practices?

Stop Sign

Greenwashing has been going on for a long time, but it has become common practice, so much so that it is kinda terrifying. This is because more and more people want to buy products that are good for the environment.

If you want to buy good products, you should be wary of the “Green Lies” sold as “Green Goods.”

Most people disagree with greenwashing and agree it’s bad for the environment and public health. Plus, people just don’t like to be lied to.

Because “greenwashing” is a hot topic right now, business owners should be conscientious about making false claims about being good for the environment. One complaint is all it takes for the Advertising Standard Authority to look into the company’s claims (ASA).

Greenwashing is terrible for everyone. Customers are tricked into thinking that the things they buy are pure, organic, and good for the environment, whereas it’s the opposite. Customers lose faith in a company’s sustainable business practices when they find out it has done something wrong.

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