What Is Greenwashing In Business? 🌿❌
What Is Greenwashing? 🌿 ❌: I know that some of our readers might not be familiar with the term “greenwashing”. As a result, we have put forward this blog to educate more on this term and why you should try to avoid it if you run a fairly big and influential corporate.
Nowadays, an increasing number of claims made by companies state that their products have undergone ‘green’ transformations to cause less damage to the environment. By doing so, they fully convince the masses of their efforts to ‘doing their part to save the Earth‘.
But we would strongly advise you against believing their claims and look at the bigger picture. What they are doing is a classic example of greenwashing – a practice that prioritises more the marketing or advertising of a product being green rather than making efforts and implementing green practices to protect the environment.
A bit about Waster
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Greenwashing does more harm than good
Greenwashing makes perfect sense to do for companies seeking to boost their sales. Of course, who in their right minds would advertise their products or services in a negative fashion? As we may all know, marketing makes you appreciate the good qualities of a product or service, setting aside its negatives.
However, greenwashing takes that up a notch, whilst completely disregarding sustainability and green company practices. It provides exaggerated – sometimes even false – impressions about how environmentally friendly a product or service is. Companies more so deceive consumers and lead them to believe that buying from them means helping the environment. Oftentimes, that is not the case.
To give you an example, companies, businesses and/or organisations fully maximise the use of greenwashing to their advantage when they advertise their products made from recycled materials, some of which even claim they have energy-saving benefits.
Whilst some of the advertisements they put out are partially true, as mentioned above, they exaggerate such claims which can result in confusion on the consumers’ part.
Most famous examples
Greenwashing first came into fruition in the 1960s. According to Investopedia, plenty of hotels planned a way to cut costs without their guests realising. What they did was they placed signs in the hotel rooms and encouraged those who are staying to reuse their towels and help the ailing environment. As expected, this movement was met with praises and as a result, more and more hotels used it.
However, this example pales in comparison to what we experience today. In recent times, the biggest carbon emitters have also used this tactic and rebranded themselves as ‘green’ – making claims of aiming for a more circular economy through their products. Unfortunately, plenty buy into their claims without much refute.
Greenwashing: ExxonMobil, the most famous example
A famous example of this event would have to be ExxonMobil’s zero emissions target.
ExxonMobile, an American company that focuses on oil and gas, had its own environmental goal: diverting its attention to solving climate change. The Paris Agreement inspired ExxonMobil, therefore aligning its goals with it.
In plans the company called “projected to be consistent with the goals of the Paris Agreement”, the company committed to reduce the intensity of upstream (Scope 1 and 2) emissions from its operated assets by 15-20% compared to 2016 levels, which it says is expected to deliver around 30% in absolute emission reductions for its “Upstream” business. It also published targets to reduce methane intensity by 40-50% and “flaring” intensity by 35-45%. Methane is a powerful greenhouse gas emitted during oil and gas extraction, and “flaring” is the common burning of unwanted gas during oil extraction and processing.
But of course, the truth still prevailed. None of what they did really helped the Earth.
ExxonMobil says that its 2019 Scope 1 and 2 emissions from its operations are 5% lower than they were in 2010. However, this is a selective claim – emissions in 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 were higher than in 2019, and at times were even higher than in 2010. The company does not give an average over the 2010-2019 period. Most importantly, the claim simply avoids the company’s Scope 3 emissions from its products, which are roughly seven times larger.
How your business can avoid greenwashing
We want to remind businesses that they do not need to employ aggressive tactics like that to make sales and become more successful. They can improve their brand image by doing other stuff and not doing greenwashing. Here, we state some tips on how they can make huge sales and help the environment at the same time.
1. Implement sustainability through greener practices
Do not make marketing the sole reason for wanting to reduce your environmental impact, footprint etc. Everything starts in your workplace. Have a simple yet effective waste management plan, a plan that we suggest should prioritise prevention (of waste) over anything else. In addition, advocate what you think is right and let your consumers know of the benefits of implementing sustainable practices in a business before anything else.
2. Never lie or exaggerate
More or less, no company can truly achieve a zero-waste status, much less overnight. However, with sustainable practices, you can come close.
With that said, you should be completely transparent about your commitments. What you said, you should do. Never advertise something you cannot do, of course, such as greenwashing by advertising exaggeratedly or misleading everyone with your products.
“What is greenwashing?”: conclusion
Companies need not mislead their consumers and make them think that they are making a difference just by buying their products. That is blatant greenwashing as we have discussed in this blog. They should aim to achieve more sustainable products or services, instead.
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