Klimaneutralisiert. Plastikfrei. Vegan.  |   Echte Nachhaltigkeit als neue Normalität

Logo BIOvative

Table of contents

Der grüne Schein trügt: Was ist Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is pretty much the opposite of what we at BIOvative understand by true sustainability. True sustainability is when companies act in an environmentally and socially responsible way from the outset.

Greenwashing is about companies preferring to put on a green veneer and pretend to care about the environment instead of actually implementing sustainable business practices. It is purely a marketing strategy of disinformation. It is an attempt by companies to distract public perception from their own reprehensible business practices. Here you will learn how greenwashing came about and what greenwashing strategies exist.

You should not confuse greenwashing with other thematically related terms such as deep greenwashing, bluewashing or sweatwashing.

Greenwashing is not a new phenomenon

The term greenwashing has become part of our vernacular over time. However, the business practices behind it date back to the 1960s. It was around this time that companies first found themselves increasingly exposed to public focus. Society suddenly became interested in the environmental impact of their actions. Called “ecopornography” at the time, the first companies began to purposefully mislead the public about their environmentally harmful practices.

One of the first large-scale greenwashing campaigns was conducted by Chevron in the 1980s. The oil company focused its advertising on conservation and animal welfare, making it appear that nature remains alive and undisturbed despite oil production.

The result should come as no surprise: Gasoline sales among ecologically minded customers rose by more than 20%. In the meantime, there have been plenty of greenwashing scandals, showing how ubiquitous the issue is.

Greenwashing in today's world

What was still in its infancy back then is now a relatively well-known term. Companies rely on a whole range of strategies with which they influence consumers. However, they are always characterized by a very one-sided and distorted portrayal of certain environmental issues.

Companies (and sometimes governments) want to be perceived as “sustainable” or exemplary. What they don’t want, on the other hand, is to seriously address the issue or do better. In most cases, therefore, greenwashing efforts amount to deception of the public. The most common methods usually fall into one of the following seven categories, or seven sins of greenwashing.

Watch out: These are the 7 most common greenwashing strategies

1. Sin of hidden trade-off

We speak of a secret compromise when companies focus on only one or a few positive aspects of their goods or services when marketing them. In doing so, sustainability is to be placed in the foreground. The less positive aspects are concealed in the process. For example, paper is often described as sustainable because it is produced from renewable raw materials. While this is true, the environmental impact of bleaching or the use of environmentally harmful chemicals is often left out of the equation.

2. Sin of no proof

Companies also often take advantage of a lack of transparency by making certain claims without providing evidence. A common example is the opacity within the supply chain of many companies. This allows companies to claim a lot that is ultimately difficult to verify.

3. Sin of vagueness

Companies also often take advantage of a lack of transparency by making certain claims without providing evidence. A common example is the opacity within the supply chain of many companies. This allows companies to claim a lot that is ultimately difficult to verify.

4. Sin of worshiping false labels

Also popular are dubious certificates and labels. For example, companies or organizations financed by them can create their own labels. These labels are not checked by independent third parties. This allows consumers to be deceived with little effort. Also popular: certifications that are irrelevant in the context of the statements made.

5. Sin of irrelevance

Surely you have occasionally bought a product that proclaims on the package that it does without ingredients X or Y. Such statements can also be easily used for greenwashing. For example, by saying that a product does not contain plasticizers, even though they are prohibited by law anyway, consumers are led to believe that they have a sense of responsibility. In the EU, for example, the use of bisphenol A (BPA) in baby bottles has been banned since 2011. Nevertheless, you can still find references to it on the products.

6. Sin of lesser of two evils

By comparing themselves or one of their products with an even worse or more environmentally harmful competitor product, companies can present themselves in a better light. The motto is “I may have hit a car while drunk, but that guy ran someone over while drunk. This tactic is often used to distract from the negative effects of one’s own actions. A well-known example of this is palm oil: it has a higher yield per hectare of cultivated land than other vegetable oils. Great. What people don’t like to talk about is the massive deforestation of rainforests to create land for palm oil plantations.

7. Sin of fibbing

Of all the tactics mentioned, this one is the most reprehensible. While the other methods are primarily intended to deceive or distract, this method deliberately lies to the public. While the other methods are also bad, but permitted by law, spreading lies is unfair competition. So at least this greenwashing sin is punishable by law, as for example the VW diesel scandal showed a few years ago.

Most greenwashing methods fall into one of the seven greenwashing strategies mentioned. We present more methods in our article on greenwashing examples.

How you can expose greenwashing

Companies have developed a myriad of methods to deceive consumers and the public. Being less susceptible to such deceptions requires some preparation on your part. Just as with fake news, proper fact-checking is essential.

Companies have now developed a myriad of methods developed to deceive consumers consumers and the public.

If you’d like to learn more about how to spot greenwashing campaigns or what greenwashing methods companies commonly use besides the top strategies, you’ve come to the right place in our magazine.

Nachhaltigkeit für Dein Postfach

Tipps & Tricks für ein nachhaltigeres Leben, alle News und Neuerungen rund um BIOvative und vieles mehr für Dein E-Mail Postfach! Melde Dich jetzt an und sichere Dir 10% auf Deine nächste Bestellung!

These articles may also interest you