What is Greenwashing?
Greenwashing refers to a system or a process which provides misleading facts or impressions or information proving that the products manufactured by the individual or organisation or company or the industry does no harm to the environment by way of classy packaging or provide false information on labels or branding the product in the said way.
You may have heard the word “brainwashing”. Brainwashing means convincing the other person to accept the facts said by you through psychological techniques. Similarly, greenwashing refers to convincing the users that the product is environmentally clean.
Today, there are various products in the technological world which has environmental impacts, whether directly or indirectly. Products which affect the environment are either banned by the government or bears limitation on production or boycotted by the public at large. Such events affect the revenue of the manufacturer of such goods. Supported by an unethical background of such manufacturer, he still wants to earn huge by selling such products. However, one question should arise in your mind, as to why people are purchasing such products?
Some of the products which we are using in daily life but has hazardous environmental effects are plastic water bottles, plastic bags, menstrual products, food packaging, disposable single-use razors, produce bags, disposable cutlery, paper coffee cups & boxes of teabags etc. Manufacture of such products is allowed subject to technical specifications required. To surpass the lawful requirement, manufacturer indulges in activities such as greenwashing.
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So, now you may have understood, where greenwashing works & for whom.
Types of Greenwashing
Greenwashing is a non-merit sinful act & it can be done through various methods enumerated as below:
- Labelling: Manufacturer use self-declared labels such as 100% organic, 100% natural, eco-friendly, etc. without substantial information in the list of ingredients. Such labels are misleading.
- Claims: Few companies claim that their products are free from certain chemicals. However, there is no such ban imposed by the government on the usage of said chemical. This provides irrelevant claims & provides an image of being friendly with nature.
- Imageries: Everything which is green is not necessarily environmentally friendly. Manufacturers will use images of leaves, or trees or packaging in such a way which depicts environment friendly.
- Lower Evil: Organic cigarettes are a typical example of this. The product provides an image that organic cigarettes are lower evil than normal cigarettes which cause harm to the body as well as the environment.
- Hidden trade-off: This means environment hazardous activities in the manufacturing process, is hidden from disclosures anywhere. The manufacturers will hide such activities & will disclose only such activities which are environment friendly.
How Does It Work?
- Greenwashing can also be referred to as “Green sheen”. Greenwashing tries to steal the enhancing demand for products which are good for the environment. Good for environment refers to which does not contain chemical, easily recyclable, consumes a lower amount of natural resources, and can be disposed of without any harm to the environment.
- It gained its popularity in the mid-1960s. Many companies started to market themselves as environmentally friendly. In the year 1998, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) circulated “Green Guidelines”.
- The hotel industry started the movement asking their guests (who stay for more than 1 day), to reuse their own towels & avoid asking for new towels with a reduced cost of the stay. This way, the laundry cost reduced.
- Companies are not liable to report their carbon emission to the government. Such disclosures are essential in the annual reports of the entity.
Examples of Greenwashing
Some of the classic examples are as follows:
- In the recent December 2019, BP provided a campaign that misled the consumers & provided false impressions through their advertisement, which provides the need to reduce greenhouse gas emission drastically. After the enquiry, it was proved that BP has almost 96% of its annual capacity into “non-renewable” oil & gas (a big hazard for the environment). The total investment by BP in low-carbon initiatives as just 4% of its total investment.
- The fastest mode of transport today is “through the air”. However, flying aeroplanes is a big carbon-intensive activity. Obviously, the operators will try to promote their image as eco-friendly in other facts. A similar case occurred with “Ryanair” which claimed in September 2019 that their budgets airlines are carbon efficient. However, when the enquiry into the facts was made, the Company was unable to justify its claim for eco-friendly. Later in February 2020, Ryanair advertisement was banned by the UK authorities.
- Trash bags are usually marketed as “recyclable”. However, the facts of the manufacturing process prove that trash bags cannot be reused for any other purpose. Thus, the said claim was deceptive in nature.
How to Avoid Greenwashing?
- The law requires correct labels & certifications of any country. Even if it is hazardous, the company must state the fact. This discloses the true nature of products & customer is to choose them.
- Never trust the irrelevant claims made by companies through their brand images. Always do some research on the products. Various Youtube volunteers correctly explain the ingredients & their impact on human health and the wider nature.
- Go for facts of the product rather than just its advertisement.
- A company may be manufacturing one product which is 100% eco-friendly and advertises itself as eco-friendly. However, it wrong to assume that all its products are eco-friendly.
- Every vegan product is not necessarily eco-friendly. See for the list of ingredients used, its overall image, its products & then decide. Yes, it is time-consuming at first instance.
- Customers create demand in the market and thus, they are the kings. However, be aware of free webinars or free products. Remember the fact that “if you are not paying for the product, you are the product”.
Usage of Greenwashing
- Companies or individuals basically use greenwashing techniques to sell their products in high demand. The sale is made by providing the false impression of being eco-friendly or less hazardous to the environment.
- People with lower knowledge about the fact will eventually buy such products & it will increase the never-ending profits of the manufacturer.
- More greenwashing is usually used for products which are addictive in nature & people have easily addicted to such products some or the other way.
- Greenwashing creates a fake image in the market concerning complying laws of nature. The company may easily earn huge profits by selling its products.
- Many organisations hide activities which are hazardous for the environment such as leaking the chemicals in the river directly through hidden ways under the ground.
This has been a guide to Greenwashing and its definition. Here we discuss types, examples, and how does it work along with its usage. You may learn more about financing from the following articles –