… for the planet, as well as for each individual. From one message on LinkedIn with a campaign that sort of took over the digital marketing chatter, I realized that greenwashing is something I have been following for quite some time now.
You may or may not have heard already about the tag-along advertising campaign made by Kaufland Romania in which they marketed their zero-waste activities and tagged other national retailers in order to showcase how each of them supports this trend. But it’s kind of ironic, isn’t it? The retailers that have countless discounts in order to get you to buy more, talk about being less wasteful. Something doesn’t add up.
What is greenwashing?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, “greenwashing is understood as the behavior or activities that make people believe that a company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is.”
One common method of greenwashing is to selectively highlight the environmentally friendly aspects of a product while ignoring or downplaying the damaging effects of other aspects.
Why is advertising a key player?
As stated above, a major way of achieving a “green” look for your company is to select certain traits of the product that can slide as nature friendly. And this is something that advertising has always been good at. While some campaigns do well and bring brands the desired outcome, most backfire and do more harm than good.
A big player in this is the fashion industry. Is the top industry that uses greenwashing as a way to adhere to evolving trends or to settle in the minds of consumers that they are not contributing to the harm done to our planet.
One clear example is the case of Pretty Little Things (PLT) which created an “outlet” program for their clothes that did not sell. Even though the idea is great and you can give the leftover stock a second chance, their type of clothes tends to be made from very cheap materials that won’t last more than a season.
You can find greenwashing under many different names, but the most popular ones are “natural”, “eco-friendly” or “organic”. Of course, this is something that we encounter not only in the fashion industry but also in the automotive industry, the food industry, and the cosmetic industry.
How does greenwashing affect us?
Greenwashing misleads consumers into believing that a product or service is environmentally friendly, even if it is not. This can result in consumers making purchasing decisions based on false or incomplete information.
Undermining sustainability efforts.
Legitimate sustainability efforts are undermined by making it difficult for consumers to differentiate between truly eco-friendly products and those that are falsely marketed as such.
Damage to the environment.
If consumers are misled by greenwashing, they may unwittingly purchase products that are harmful to the environment, contributing to pollution, resource depletion, and other environmental problems.
Loss of trust.
It erodes consumer trust and can damage the reputations of companies that engage in it. This loss of trust can have long-term negative impacts on a company’s profitability and sustainability.
When companies engage in greenwashing, it reduces the pressure on them to develop truly sustainable products and services. This can stifle innovation and progress toward a more sustainable future.
In the end, it all comes down to supply and demand. I believe that by reducing our demand, the supply will have no other option than to follow. But in order to achieve this, we would have to go through a long process of learning and making better decisions with our purchases. And until that happens, companies will continue to use greenwashing (or any other forms of it) up to the moment they won’t be allowed to by a higher power, the government.