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Janek Ekeli
Janek Ekeli
Jun 6 · min read

Why Greenwashing is problematic

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Greenwashing is ubiquitous. Since sustainability became popular, businesses have upped their attempts to look more environmentally conscious. There are corporations that have taken advantage of the growing interest in sustainability, which has caused many businesses to permanently alter their business models and make beneficial contributions to the environment. These firms advertise themselves and their products as more environmentally friendly than they actually are. In other words, they engage in greenwashing.

What is greenwashing?

Greenwashing refers to a company's endeavor to look more eco-friendly than they actually are. Typically, this is achieved by presenting inaccurate or deceptive information about the company's products and services in order to make them appear more sustainable. Greenwashing is frequently used to increase a company's sales and reputation.

There are several methods in which businesses might engage in greenwashing. However, this is frequently accomplished by distorting scientific knowledge, misleading clients with convoluted or ambiguous language, or utilizing green labels and imagery that misrepresent the genuine nature of their products. A frequent example is corporations who plant a tree for each product sold. Planting a tree cannot compensate for the environmental damage produced by the majority of goods during their life cycle. While planting a tree is not intrinsically evil, letting a buyer believe they are doing something good for the environment by purchasing a product is greenwashing.

Why is greenwashing bad?

The fundamental problem with greenwashing is when corporations devote more resources to marketing themselves as sustainable than to reducing their environmental consequences.

Even while it's not unusual for greenwashing efforts to include positive actions, such as presenting a more sustainable alternative to the items a firm used to market, greenwashing misleads people into believing that a corporation is doing responsibly toward the environment. This is problematic since environmental issues are frequently overlooked. Greenwashing diverts attention away from the problems and makes it harder for customers to hold a firm accountable for environmental difficulties.

From the standpoint of the client, greenwashing is problematic since it exploits their good intentions. Greenwashing initiatives employ sustainability as a marketing tactic to increase their sales, while directing funds to unsustainable economic practices. Moreover, greenwashing tactics frequently promote mass consumerism, which clearly contradicts the sustainable concept.

How to recognize greenwashing?

One of the easiest ways to identify greenwashing is to look at a company’s ethics and values. Looking at a company’s business model, environmental policies, emissions, and what the company produces alongside the sustainable products are good indicators of whether the company is likely to be greenwashing. For example, the efforts of oil corporations to produce green energy don’t outweigh the negative environmental impacts of fossil fuel extraction. Similarly, if a company’s business model relies on mass consumption of unsustainable products that have been produced in a country with little to no environmental safety standards, there is a good chance that the company is greenwashing.
Another way to identify greenwashing is to look at the terminology, labels, and imagery that companies use in their products. Companies often use vague terms such as ‘natural’ and ‘green’ to appear more sustainable. These terms are rarely backed up with any actual proof about the sustainability of the product. Another way to fool customers is to use terminology like ‘biodegradable’ as many people have positive associations with it. The green terminology is often supported by pictures of nature and green color, as people associate them with environmentally friendly products. Many of these products are also accompanied by different labels that seek to convince customers about the company’s values. However, unless these labels are certified, they provide little to no proof about the company’s sustainability standards.

© ESG-NRG: 2022