In this presentation we are going to talk about greenwashing. This term describes the fraud made by companies when they pretend they help the environment by using green marketing to increase their profit. During the last few months we have done research on greenwashing because it was a new concept for us. We found it very interesting because companies around the world spend money and time to make us think that their policies or products are environmentally friendly when sometimes they are not.
This term is a portmanteau of “green” and “whitewash” (which means covering up corporative vices or scandals). It was coined by Jay Westerveld, an American environmentalist, in 1986 to refer to the previous practice.
This cartoon shows some of the advertisement techniques used by companies when doing greenwashing.
Some companies which use greenwashing are British Petrolium, Destiny USA and IBM. British Petrolium’s logo , which is a flower, is a good example of how a company which has damaged the environment so badly try to project a green image.
Some organizations are raising awareness about these Greenwashing practices. A good example is Terra Choice, an environmental marketing and consulting firm which helps grow the world’s most sustainable companies . Their products and services include: Validation of products with environmental certification, Consulting in environmental marketing strategy and policies. They are the authors since 2007 of the Sins of Greenwashing studies
In an effort to describe, understand and quantify the growth of greenwashing, TerraChoice launched a study of environmental claims made on products. Based on the results of the study, they identified these seven patterns that they called “the seven sins of greenwashing”. They all show misleading environmental claims found by consumers wanting to do the right thing and we will talk about them a bit later.
Now we are going to explain the seven sins of Greenwashing. The name of the first one isthe sin of the hidden trade-off. This sin takes place when a “product is green based on an unreasonably narrow set of attributes without paying attention to other important environmental issues” One example is paper because even if it comes from a sustainably harvested forest and the product claims it is green, it does not account for other important issues in the paper-making process such as greenhouse gas emissions.
With the exception of “organic’’, this shampoo does not provide information about other environmental impacts. Truly greener products normally address multiple environmental issues such as the packaging, the recyclability of the bootle and whether the shampoo contains potentially harmful ingredients. Please, notice that this product also commits the sin of Vagueness and No proof.
This sin consists in advertising environmental claims about qualities that the product is believed to have in order to sell it better. The company says this product is ecologycal, good for nature, etc. But it doesn’t show any evidence or certification.
This is a good example of a company which is commiting the sin of no proof . The company says this car needs a small quantity of fuel in spite of its big size and without offering of any evidence of this being true.
The Sin of Vagueness is committed by every claim that is so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the customer. Some recurring themes with this “sin” can be: ‘ Chemical-Free’ because nothing is completely ‘chemical free’ , not even water or plants. ‘ Non-Toxic’ because everything is toxic depending on dosage. ‘ Green, Environmentally Friendly and Eco-conscious’ because are all vague terms without elaboration. Sometimes a product claims to be “all-natural” when it may contain arsenic, uranium or mercury, which are all naturally occurring, but also poisonous. ‘All natural’ isn’t necessarily ‘green’.
This soothing eye gel is an example of the sin of vagueness. The label says it’s natural, but contains no information of the ingredients used to manufacture it.
This sin is “the sin of worshiping false labels”. Some companies put words or images on their products that are not real. That’s to say, labels are false.
An example of this is this ad campaign carried out by the company General Motors. The company created a campaign to show that their cars were environmentally friendly, but the company is in fact one of the leading producers of vehicles which consume lots of polluting gases.
The sin of irrelevance consists in claiming a quality that may be true for the product, but which is not important for environment purposes.
The most often cited example of the sin of irrelevance is the claim on many products that they are “CFC-free:” While that sounds interesting and very green, the claim is irrelevant simply because ALL products currently on the market are CFC-free given that chlorofluorocarbons were found to damage the Earth’s ozone layer and were banned almost thirty years ago.
What’s the the sin of Lesser of two evils? The company may not lie in the product’s quality being claimed, but it distracts the consumer from the greater enviromental impact of that product.
Surfing in the internet and we saw “environmentaly friendly cigarettes” Surely these cigarettes are organic but what about the hundreds of hectares that had been cut and the consequences for smokers? And what about of the millions of cigarettes that are being consumed every day ?They produce thousands of tones of carbon dioxide.
Finally the sin of fibbing refers to those companies which add on their products claims that are entirely false.
The Fur Council Of Canada claimed that “fur is green”. Yes, they really said that. They claimed that fur is “natural, renewable, recyclable, biodegradable and energy efficient.” They even called it “the ultimate eco clothing”. However, we must know that “It takes more than 60 times as much energy to produce a fur coat from animals than it does to produce a fake fur. Plus, the waste produced on fur farms poisons our waterways. Besides, unlike false fur the “real thing” causes millions of animals to suffer every year.”
We have also been doing research on some adverts we can see in our daily lives in Barcelona. For example, TMB, the company in charge of the transport network in Barcelona, has launched a campaign to raise awareness about the importance of using public transport in order to reduce CO2 emissions. On their web-page you can create a desktop with flowers and calculate how much CO2 you can reduce. Even if the campaign is very appealing, we must not forget that its purpose is gaining customers and it commits, among others, the “sin of vagueness” and the “sin of the lesser of two evils” because it distracts the consumer from the fact that TMB does also emit CO2.
The company Nestle has not only counted on George Cluny to promote Nespresso, but they have also created a campaign called “ecolaboration” to inform about their capsule retrieval systems. Both their Internet page and the TV ads have reached many countries and the success of this product is obvious. However, is this recycling campaign really effective or is it just a way to pretend that Nestle cares about all the garbage they generate?
Ambilamp is a non-profit association which has developed a system to retrieve and recycle bulbs. They offer their services to bulb manufacturers, they comply with environmental regulations and work with the authorities to keep improving this system. We think Ambilamp’s ads are good examples of “completely green services”.
In spite of the existence of this unethical practice, we so also want to show that the situation is getting better. As we can see in this graphic, today there are 73% more green products than in 2009. These products are healthy for our planet and also for us. Cleaning, building and construction products are the most representative ones.
As we have tried to show in this presentation, there are still many products that commit one or more sins of greenwashing.
Nevertheless, some companies are listening and we hope that the number of sin-free products keeps increasing. Thank you for your attention.
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Greenwashing <ul><li>It is a term describing the fraud made by companies when they pretend they help the environment by using green marketing. </li></ul>
The origin of the term <ul><li>This term is a portmanteau of “green” and “whitewash” and was coined by an American environmentalist in 1986 to refer to the aforesaid practice. </li></ul>
Sin of no proof <ul><li>This sin consists in making environmental claims about qualities that the product is believed to have, but without offering neither evidence of them nor a reliable certification. </li></ul>
Example of the s in of no proof : <ul><li>This is a good example. This car will never use a small quantity of fuel because its size requires high amounts of it. </li></ul>
Sin of vagueness : <ul><li>This sin consists in making a claim which is poorly defined or too broad. The real meaning can therefore be misunderstood by the consumer. </li></ul>
Example of the s in of vagueness : <ul><li>This is an example of the sin of vagueness. The label says this product is “natural”, but this affirmation isn’t very accurate. </li></ul>
Sin of worshiping false labels <ul><li>A product that, through </li></ul><ul><li>either words or images, </li></ul><ul><li>gives the impression of </li></ul><ul><li>third-party endorsement </li></ul><ul><li>where no such endorsement exists; fake </li></ul><ul><li>labels, in other words. </li></ul>
Example of the sin of worshiping false labels: General Motors GM’s ‘Gas-Friendly to Gas-Free’ ad campaign sought to reframe GM as eco-friendly.
Sin of irrelevance <ul><li>An environmental claim </li></ul><ul><li>that may be truthful but is </li></ul><ul><li>unimportant or unhelpful </li></ul><ul><li>for consumers seeking </li></ul><ul><li>environmentally preferable products. </li></ul>
Example of the sin of irrelevance: No CFCs Many products claim that they are “CFC-free” when ALL products currently on the market are CFC-free by law.
Sin of the lesser of two evils <ul><li>A claim that may be </li></ul><ul><li>true within the product </li></ul><ul><li>category, but that risks </li></ul><ul><li>distracting the consumer </li></ul><ul><li>from the greater environmental </li></ul><ul><li>impacts of the category as a whole. </li></ul>
Example of the sin of the lesser of two evils: organic cigarettes Company says: ´´Cigarette smokers unite! Now American Spirit cigarettes use organic tobacco! Sure, smoking cigarettes isn’t a health choice, but if you are already addicted, why not support environmental sustainability? ´´
Sin of fibbing <ul><li>Environmental claims that are simply false. </li></ul>
Example of the sin of fibbing: Fur Council of Canada An example is the Fur Council Of Canada that claims that their products are green when they are killing a lot of animals to make their furs.
TMB: Barcelona Transport Network <ul><li>The company in charge of the transport network in Barcelona (TMB) has launched a campaign to raise awareness about the importance of using public transport in order to reduce CO2 emissions. </li></ul>
Nespresso <ul><li>The company Nestle has not only counted on George Clooney to promote Nespresso, but they have also created a campaign called “ecolaboration” to inform about their capsule retrieval systems. </li></ul>
Ambilamp <ul><li>Ambilamp is a non-profit association which has developed a system to retrieve and recycle bulbs. </li></ul><ul><li>They offer their services to bulb manufacturers, they comply with environmental regulations and work with the authorities to keep improving this system. </li></ul>