4 Ways to Spot Greenwashing

My thoughts today touch on the topics of sustainable reporting, public relations, and greenwashing within business organizations.

What is greenwashing?

It is whitewashing, with a ‘green’ twist. In other words, it is a coordinated effort on the part of members of an organization (formal or informal), to hide, obfuscate, or alter facts that are deemed unpleasant or unacceptable in a social or political context.

So, when a company spends more time and effort to promote empty promises than they do to address a social or environmental ‘bad’ they have responsibility for, they are greenwashing.

In 2007, and again in 2009 and 2010, TerraChoice Environmental Marketing found that a large majority of environmental marketing claims were inaccurate. Large corporations that have held a controversial environmental past; such as car, chemical, and oil companies, are often the largest greenwashers.

Classic examples:

  • An energy company promoting itself as good for the environment because they have subscribed to a set of principles, or have invested a small percent in a new technology; but in reality they have not addressed whole organization practices and continue to degrade the earth.
  • Hotel promotes itself as green because customers have option to re-use sheets and towels, but the hotel has not changed other practices, such as switching to environmentally friendly cleaning products, or reducing overall water consumption in groundskeeping, dining, and other areas.
  • A bank promotes itself as green because they suddenly decide to invest in new energy technologies, but the level of investment in those technologies is a mere 1% of all investment strategy.

4 Ways you can be on the lookout for greenwashing:

  1. Analyze the Company’s Claim
  2. Ask and Look for Proof
  3. Check for Consistency Across Countries/Activities
  4. Follow Where the Company’s Money Flows

To learn more about corporate greenwashing, click here.

Have you witnessed greenwashing within the fashion industry?

Check out your favorite brands’ websites to learn more about their transparency!

Learn more about our sustainable practices at my atelier:

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