The urgency to stop climate change leads millions of consumers to look for commercial products that have an environmental focus. However, the advertising technique of greenwashing appears as a deceptive method that companies use to associate their goods with sustainable production.
This is a deception because, far from being ecological, these products generate the same pollution as always, only that they present their work with an environmental perspective. For example, using green labels, confusing terms or images of nature.
All these strategies are encompassed under the term greenwashing; A way to wash the image of companies and bring them closer to customers with environmental concerns. There are different ways to identify when a product is environmentally friendly and when it is resorting to advertising tricks.
What does the term “greenwashing” mean?
Greenwashing, also known as “eco-laundering” or “green marketing“, is a conjunction of 2 terms in English. Green, which means “green”, and washing, whose translation is “washed”.
The color green refers to everything related to environmental protection, sustainable production and consumption aimed at reducing levels of global warming. On the other hand, washing or “washing” refers to a cleaning or bleaching that only represents an image and not what is behind it.
For this reason, greenwashing is a term that refers to the methods that companies use to show themselves as ecological. However, they do not intervene in a concrete way in any environmental aspect, such as in the production or distribution of their goods.
It is also considered green marketing when the investment in advertising or green façade is larger than the actual attempts to reduce carbon emissions. This happens with a large number of everyday consumer companies and is not a new phenomenon either.
Therefore, it is important to identify when greenwashing exists. In this way, deception is avoided and the general skepticism generated by this practice in consumers is reduced.
When it came into use
The term was coined in 1990 by English writer, botanist and naturalist David Bellamy. He expressed this during the celebration of International Mother Earth Day, which takes place on April 22 of each year. By that time, Bellamy had already noticed corporate practices that emphasized fallacious environmental credentials.
It is a variant of whitewashing, a word that refers to general strategies of image laundering in companies associated with illegal or unethical practices. It may seem like another misleading action, but greenwashing has serious effects and consequences on consumers:
- Deception: The logical effect is that it appeals to fallacious images that do not meet the environmental demand of consumers.
- No change: of course, this practice does not contribute to keeping global warming below 1.5 degrees, an urgent objective ratified during the last COP.
- Skepticism: Greenwashing generates skepticism in consumers, so brands that do take measures to reduce their emissions are affected.
How to identify “greenwashing”?
There are a number of actions that must be taken into account to identify possible eco-laundering practices. When it comes to marketing strategies, the analysis of logos, words, slogans and images is fundamental. The more information you have about the way that company produces, the easier it is to identify its true environmental responsibility.
In addition, it is very important to know how the goods are composed. The environmental NGO Greenpeace prepared a report in which it identifies different green marketing strategies.
One of the most common actions is the incorporation of specific words linked to sustainability in product packaging. For example, the terms “natural, ecological, sustainable” and even “green” may appear on a soda bottle that has nothing to do with sustainable practices.
Labels in greenwashing
Another greenwashing strategy is the incorporation of labels on packaging. This is a way of confusing consumers with official environmental care labels issued by regulatory organizations.
They can be small green leaves, logos of the same color or large references to recycling. But these are details added by the brand itself to confuse.
Some products usually contain 1 or 2 ingredients of natural origin within a general composition little linked to environmental aspects. The strategy is to highlight the presence of these components.
Therefore, it is important that users inform themselves and read in detail the labels of the goods to avoid falling into deception. It often happens in food and cosmetics.