In the world of tough market competition on one side and attempts to stream consumerism to benefit society on the other side, practice of greenwashing has become a foe we all need to be aware of.
Earth day 2017 was partly devoted to raising awareness about greenwashing and in this post we will help that noble cause.
What is greenwashing?
Greenwashing is put in place to help mislead consumers into believing products or services they are buying are safe for consumption and protective towards the environment. But the reality turns out to be something very different.
Behind carefully planned marketing strategies and aggressive, ecofriendly PR, greenwashing is trying to create a picture of socially responsible and ecofriendly company which can be quite problematic because usually the greatest polluters are precisely those who invest significant amounts of money into painting a picture of them being ecofriendly.
History of greenwashing
History of greenwashing has been very rich with such examples. Big oil, automobile or food production companies, have been funding commercials to make them responsible towards environment, and careful when it comes to future generations.
We might say it all started with Chevron Corporation, back in 1980s. It was the time when the campaign People Do, tried to reach out to people convincing them green lush fields, animals and protecting the environment is all Chevron wants to achieve. Such picture was entirely on the opposite of vast destroyed areas for extracting oil, and all of the environmental damage done in order to extract more oil and earn bigger profits.
Seems too obvious for anyone to believe it you think. And you might be surprised to learn you are wrong. Research done after placing such a campaign, showed people believe in Chevron being respectful and protective towards the nature even though there was little evidence to prove it, other than creative, idyllic commercials.
Forms of greenwashing
And this was greenwashing 101. Greenwashing today is much subtler. It comes in all possible forms, and its many times so sneaky that it gets harder to recognize it. Think of a popular soda, and a commercial full of greenery, reminding you of a tropical forest, trying to make you believe that soda, most likely full of chemicals, whose production asks for no efficient water and energy usage, is as a matter of fact a product of nature, loving a caring towards environment. Congratulations, you have discovered another example of greenwashing.
In order to make sure a company and its products or services are genuinely ecofriendly, you have to take into consideration a wider picture, whole production chain to be more precise. What does it mean?
It means it’s not enough to see hotels putting up policies of re-usage of towels and sheets to believe they are ecofriendly. You will have to take a look at their business as a whole. Are they using water and energy efficiently, are they using nontoxic chemicals, are they supporting businesses with low negative impact to the environment, are they aware of the necessity to change their business models?
And this is just a beginning of the story. It is not enough to shoot several commercials painted in green, to plant few trees or organize a cleaning action in order to prove your attentiveness to being eco business. Businesses need to change its policies in order for the consumer to keep believing in them.
Education of consumers
Consumers have become more interested in the products they are buying and the impact such products leave. Especially millennials tend to show such interests according to many researches undertaken. That is why it is necessary to build awareness among the consumers and to provide enough information to them so that they will be able to make sound, informed decisions, to support businesses that are ecofriendly for real and to punish those who try to “greenwash” them
One of the supporting tools for that could be the Greenwashing index.
Greenwashing index is a website supported by University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication that offers consumers an opportunity to learn more about greenwashing, to evaluate commercials and learn how not to become mislead by clever PR. On this website you will be able to see ratings of many different producers, well-known companies in many different sectors, to share your thoughts and feelings about the work they do, and impact shift in reality.
Ecolabels as a road sign
Another way too be careful of not becoming a “greenwashing victim” is to get familiar with ecolabels. The idea behind ecolabels is to give consumers certainty, products they are buying are genuinely ecofriendly and safe for consumption. They can rely on heavy preconditions for getting ecolabels, to make sure products are not “greenwashed”. And such strict preconditions take care of production as a whole, from raw materials to recycling, because everything matters and our planet asks for help in all fields.
Read more about ecolabels on the following pages:
- IMPORTANCE AND TYPES OF GLOBALLY RECOGNIZED ECOLABELS – PART 1
- GLOBALY RECOGNIZED ECOLABELS – EarthCheck, Fairtrade, Eco Schools & FSC
- ECOLABELS IN EUROPE: EU Ecolabel, EKOenergy, NATRUE, Bio hotels, Eco Village
- ECOLABELS IN SOUTH EAST ASIA
- ECOLABELS IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA (USA)
Stay safe, don’t be greenwashed.