“Greenwashing” – Deceptive Green Marketing
Is Deceptive Green Marketing to promote an organization’s policies of using environmentally friendly practices or selling environmentally products when there is some question or controversy as to the actuality of the “Green” claims. The term was coined by Jay Westervelt, a New York environmentalist in 1986 in order to describe the efforts of companies who portray themselves as environmentally responsible in order to mask any environmental wrong doing. “Greenwashing” is very misleading with an attempt to mislead people into thinking a company has a great environmental track record, when in reality the track record is terrible. Therefore, it is a dishonest practice among companies.
Wikipedia.org, cited an example of “Greenwashing.” “In 1985, the Chevron Corporation launched one of the most famous “Greenwashing” ad campaigns in history. Chevron’s “People Do” advertisements were aimed at a “hostile audience” of “societal conscious” people. Two years after the launch of the campaign, surveys found people in California trusted Chevron more than other oil companies to protect the environment. In the late 1980s The American Chemistry Council started a program called Responsible Care, which shone light on the environmental performances and precautions of the group’s members. The loose guidelines of responsible care caused industries to adopt self regulation over government regulation.”
In 1991 the American Marketing Association published a study in the Journal of Public Policy and Marketing, in which it was found that 59% of ads relating to the environment had a least one deceptive claim. Again, there was another study conducted and found 77% of people relied on the environmental reputation of a company as to whether they would purchase the company’s products.
This brought about the “Green Guidelines”, which was created by the Federal Trade Commission, in which it defines terms to be used in environmental marketing.
Some signs of “Greenwashing” consumers my want to watch for are:
1. Irrelevant Claims of “Green” – Emphasis is placed on a minute attribute of green, when the product as a whole is not classified as “Green”.
2. No proof of evidence of “Green”.
3. Lying deliberately about claims of “Green” compliance.
4. Suggestive pictures of “Green” or environmentally safe.
5. No credibility to justify the “Green” claims of a product(s).
6. Misleading ads or advertisements.
7. Vagueness of “Green” representation to the consumer.
Another good example would be a cigarette advertisement. The advertiser states there was organic fertilizer used in growing the tobacco, so therefore, the cigarettes are “green.” We have all heard the controversies of cigarettes and this example is not meant to start another, but merely to display an example of “Greenwashing.” In this example, there was one tiny part of the product that had to do with “Green”, which was the organic fertilizer used in growing the tobacco. However, this does not make the entire cigarette a “green” product, but in “Greenwashing” the advertiser would play up the organic fertilizer and say the cigarette is considered “green,” but in reality the cigarette is not considered “green”. Think about it, what about the glue and paper used in making the cigarette and how about the process of preparing the tobacco, then how about the smoke? Basically to sum it up, it is green marketing used deceptively to promote the perception that something is environmentally friendly.
In conclusion, it is up to the consumer to investigate claims made by a company as to the validity of “Green” claims by companies, in which the consumer wishes to purchase products.