Greenwashing - is your product as eco-friendly as it claims?

January 06, 2020

Greenwashing might be the most genius marketing tool of recent times, with growing interest in being eco-friendly, reducing waste and going plastic-free consumers are looking at buying products with more eco-friendly credentials. 


Roll in companies with marketing money in their pocket and dollar signs in their eyes ready to put a green spin on their products and rake in the profits.

What is greenwashing?

Birthed in the 1980s Greenwashing was coined in response to Chevron’s advert which depicts happy animals rolling around in fields, very little to do with cars I think you'll agree.

 

But what can you do to spot Greenwashing in products and services you purchase and what can you do once you recognise it?


Businesses often get away with Greenwashing as producing eco-friendly products can be complex and the science involved can be equally complex therefore companies becoming reliant in distilling being eco-friendly down to buzzwords like plastic-free, carbon neutral and planting trees.

 At best these claims are misguided and at worst they can be outright lies, so lets take a look at a few examples of greenwashing so you can educate yourself on future purchases.

 

Examples

Mcdonalds

In 2009 a fast food company changed their logo colours from yellow and red to yellow and green, a company spokesman explained the change was "to clarify [their] responsibility for the preservation of natural resources.” An unsubstantiated claim and a classic example of greenwashing.

 

Seaworld

Seaworld has been battling bad press since the scathing documentary blackfish aired back in 2013 sparking anti-seaworld sentiment since. What better to prove to the world you care for the environment and its sea-faring inhabitants than introducing an eco-friendly plastic cup that “cares”?


The cup, introduced in 2013 is a refillable cup that lets you know on your CO2 saving with every refill, the saving which is likely minuscule compared to the plastic cups production and travel to and from seaworld. The CO2 saving probably isn’t doing much for the animals living conditions either, just saying.

 

Easyjet

Easyjet claimed in a 2008 advert to produce 20% less CO2 than other flights on the same route. The reality? The planes produced the same amount of CO2 per flight but because easyjet planes held more passengers the amount per passenger could be shown as less. Pretty misleading.

 

Volkswagen

Auto companies have been in bother recently with claims of “clean” diesel engines that hide true emissions values. Volkswagen were the first to be sussed out with 11 million of their vehicles being rigged with devices that cheat emissions tests. The reality is that those vehicles were emitting nitrogen dioxide levels 65 times higher than the levels allowed.

 

 

Plastic-free?

One of the most common examples of greenwashing is closer to home, we regularly come across brands making claims about plastic content in their products. One particularly common example is coffee cup companies and claims of producing “bamboo/other plant fibre” cups. The reality is bamboo-fibre isn’t making a cup by itself, the bamboo-fibres are glued together with melamine resin.


This resin means the cups aren’t biodegradable and recyclable and the melamine resin can result in toxins leaching into your drink. But the brands aren’t all to blame, manufacturers can mislead brands into believing their products are manufactured from entirely plant-based materials when in reality the products contain plastic and other not-so eco-friendly chemicals and materials.

 

Conclusion

 

Greenwashing has been around for years but with growing consumer interest in acting more environmentally consciously, companies have really ramped up the eco-lies. To combat this rampant greenwashing our advice is simple, do your research.

Greenwashing often comes in the form of unsubstantiated claims or unrelated statistics, a quick google can debunk these forms of greenwashing. 

It's important that greenwashing is called out when it's identified as it undermines the efforts of well intentioned companies and can even be dangerous to consumers.

Soseas guide to greenwashing





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