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How to Spot Corporate Greenwashing

Published date: May 2023

painting a cut out building green
Going green has resulted in profitable business for companies around the globe. This is excellent news as it means that brands can grow whilst doing some good for the planet. However, alongside the positive impact corporations are making, there is also the opportunity to take advantage of consumers’ interest in sustainable products with green branding, eco words and empty promises.

The term ‘greenwashing’ has been well-known for over a decade now. But it’s safe to say that it can be challenging at times to spot corporate greenwashing examples. Why? Because big corporations use large budgets on marketing campaigns to make sure that we believe the green branding messages they want us to.

These corporations are confident in the interest today’s consumer has in sustainable products and are looking to take advantage.

A recent report curated by Capgemini Research found that despite the cost of living crisis, over 40% of UK consumers say they would pay more for sustainable products. This is brilliant news, but alongside these results come some scary findings from TerraChoice Environmental Marketing, who found that 98% of green-labelled products are actually greenwashed.

What is a corporate greenwashing example? If you aren’t already familiar with the term greenwashing, it’s the practice of marketing products in a way designed to convince consumers that the ‘sustainable product’ is more environmentally friendly than it actually is.

There may be no such thing as a genuinely 100% impact-free consumer product. But some products have less environmental impact than others and those more sustainable products are what most people want to buy.

Greenwashing can be categorised into several types

Environmental Imagery on packaging

Some companies will choose to use nature-focused imagery to capture the consumer’s attention, and ultimately make them believe the packaging is organic and natural. When in truth, genuinely eco-friendly products generally use simpler images and plain packaging. Watch out for anything that comes across as a ‘hard eco-sell’ without many specifics to back it up.

Misleading labels and irrelevant claims

Certain products are labelled “Certified”, “100% organic,” etc. without any clear information or evidence to prove a statement. These statements tend to be self-declared or made up with no credible approval, look out for accreditation to confirm any ‘eco words’ used for products.

Hidden trade-offs

Corporations can put up an act of being environmentally friendly and sustainable but have a very non-environmental friendly trade-off. An example is when clothing companies use “natural” or “recycled” materials while the clothing is actually developed through exploitative conditions. Genuine companies would definitely provide more information on energy, water conditions, greenhouse gas emissions etc.

What is greenwashing in business?

The Sustainable Development Goals are the global standard for businesses to design, measure, and account for their contribution to sustainable development. Companies that are serious about their social impact will have to expand on their strategy, engagement, impact assessments, and design action plans and sustainable strategies accessible.

With all of these goals come high expectations and a race to deliver the results that can catch the attention of not just customers but also private stakeholders.

Hence why there are so many greenwashing opportunities for businesses. However, consumers and decision-makers are becoming more wise to greenwashing examples. They hold up a magnifying glass to the latest companies that claim to be the ‘eco-saviour’, post-pandemic and through the cost of living crisis.

However, those truly sustainable, green brands will potentially lead us to a brighter future, with their messaging and business strategy.

Why is greenwashing a social problem?

From “ethical cotton” to “eco-cars” sustainable stories resonate with today’s consumer. Why? Because they want to align themselves with companies that are making a positive impact. There is a huge demand for environmentally friendly companies, but we are still learning what that means to us as individuals. Through a crowded field of content and users have to be careful when uncovering the messages and marketing by brands.

While advertising regulators do exist, there’s no universally accepted definition of what terms like ‘sustainable’ actually means; resulting in big brands having the freedom to market an item as ‘green’, often at a marked-up price, without adhering to a clear definition of that term.

Greenwashing makes sustainability seem inaccessible, exclusive, and expensive, which needs to be changed for us to move forward as a society and make a more significant impact.

How can we combat corporate greenwashing?

Education is key. The consumers vote with their pound and having access to as much information as possible, depending on where the customer is on their sustainable journey, is crucial. Consumer power is real.

Here at Your Co-op Energy, we pride ourselves on being a truly green supplier for your home with 100% renewably sourced electricity from Wind, Solar and Hydro farms. We can’t control what takes place in other industries, in the energy sector which is why we sell community power.

Please visit here to find out more about our commitment to sustainability, the planet, and people.


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