Nowadays, corporate greenwashing is one of those common practices that may be even more harmful than we think it to be. When going green has turned from a trend into a desirable lifestyle, consumers are obviously attracted to those products and services advertised as being ecological. Oftentimes, though, the ‘better alternative’ hides a grim truth.
At a first sight, corporate greenwashing may appear as a complicated concept. In fact, it is as simple as this: it refers to all the waste products generated by corporate activity, this waste being passed on to other industries or to developing countries.
Greenwashing indicates a pretence. Many companies choose to align with the current standards and imperative requirements by making claims of green, ecological products or technologies. In truth, the production processes are rather harmful to the environment and ultimately to people. Consumers are being mislead by seductive marketing campaigns which promise a new, healthy, green experience.
In other cases, corporations do make a significant change, but there is no true guarantee that this is for the better. Take the example of TV sets. As these contained loads of lead, a highly toxic element, manufacturers finally gave in and changed the materials. Unfortunately, the led-free TVs turned out to contain something even more poisonous mercury. Consumers, however, were happy to hear that the products would be lead-free.
Can We Put an End to It?
Incomplete or nonexistent regulations are at the core of the issue. First of all, some concepts need to change. Garbage seems unavoidable; yet, it is only an artificial concept taken for granted. We can totally readdress this and change the way we think of by-products. Garbage creation is not a must. Redesigning the whole production process is thus essential.
No one seems to be addressing the main players in the game the companies producing the waste. The only efforts are targeting this waste only after it’s been created: recycling it, saving whatever can be saved. In fact, a lot more can be done, especially by stopping the misdirection of programmes. Instead of supporting garbage production and then passing on the residue, the industry should focus on generating less waste or none at all.
Signs of Greenwash
Corporate greenwashing can be given away by in-site clues or by the company’s own marketing strategies. Some of the top signs are:
The use of attractive words like ‘natural’, ‘organic’, ‘sustainable’ etc., with no actual proof.
The existence of green products, these being produced in a non-green environment, through a similar harmful process.
Emphasising only a small green aspect, while everything else about the company is left in the dark or isn’t green at all.
Unrealistic images used as ads, portraying a utopic (100% green) situation.
To find out more about a company, look for evidence of its production processes, look for detailed and complete labels and know which are the valid green certifications, because many brands simply invent such labels or awards, making it all look legitimate when it isn’t.
Kathryn Sarkis is a Marketing Manager at TerraPass and loves to share her knowledge on Ecological & Carbon Foortprint Reduction and Fighting Global Warming. She has her MBA in Sustainable Management from the Presidio Graduate School. Follow her on twitter @KathrynSarkis