What is Greenwashing?
Updated: Aug 27, 2021
Greenwashing is the practice of conveying misleading information about the environmental integrity of a product or business. Keep reading to learn what it looks like, why it happens, and how we can make informed decisions when purchasing products and supporting businesses.
Greenwashing may be intentionally used to hide negative business practices.
It is common for large corporations to get involved in environmental campaigns to redirect attention away from their negative business practices. For example, many fossil fuel companies advocate for a carbon tax, boosting their public image and giving consumers the impression of environmental responsibility.
Another example of this formed the recycling movement into what we know today. Back in the 70’s, large beverage companies recognized the environmental impact of single-use plastics. To shift responsibility off of themselves and onto consumers, they pushed post-consumer recycling campaigns.
Why might these companies advocate for environmental regulations that may affect their business? To boost public relations, a company may create a misleading campaign “in support” of the environment, such as advocating for a carbon tax or recycling. This strategy works because these companies know that the legislation they are “advocating” for will not pass. In fact, these same companies may simultaneously be lobbying against such legislation.
Greenwashing may also be unintentional.
On the other hand, some companies make unintentional mistakes when advertising their environmental initiatives. Without an environmental consultant, a company who may be making a genuine effort to be eco-conscious may advertise their initiatives incorrectly. For example, if a company uses recycled plastic in their packaging instead of virgin plastic, they should clearly advertise it as such. If the company were to claim that single-use plastic bottles were “saved” to package the product, this would be considered greenwashing, as they may only be temporarily diverted from a landfill. Instead, this initiative should be advertised for what it is, a step in the right direction rather than a solution to the plastic crisis.
Avoiding Greenwashing: Misleading Terms and Labels
There are many common terms associated with sustainability, including “green”, “eco”, and “natural”. Be aware: These key words are attention grabbers. Companies rely on them to influence a consumer into making the quick decision that their product is superior.
Although some products with these key words may be sustainable choices, not every one is. A product may contain all-natural ingredients, but is packaged in plastic. A product may contain natural ingredients with compostable packaging, but has a high carbon footprint as it is sourced internationally.
For example, one popular company touts a “green” line of sanitization products. Although the chemical ingredients may be environmentally safer than alternatives, the plastic packaging is a far cry from green. Instead, opt for products with a sustainable business model. To eliminate plastic packaging, Blueland sells cleaning tablets that can be dissolved into a spray bottle with water.
Our Final Advice:
Don’t be fooled by greenwashing! Fully read the label and consider the ingredients, origin, and product packaging before purchasing.
We hope this helps you make informed and sustainable choices when shopping for yourself or your horse!
Fossil Fuel Carbon Tax PR Ploy
The American Beverage Industry and the Development of Curbside Recycling Programs, 1950-2000