Let’s get to the point. Have you ever heard of greenwashing? If you haven’t, it’s no surprise. Unfortunately, the issue of greenwashing has over time been covered up or overshadowed by other problems. However, greenwashing is just as important to talk about.
So, let’s break it down.
Awareness regarding environmental issues has risen in the past years. Activists have taken to the streets to voice their protests against government decisions that will exploit and endanger the environment. Many have also taken a more volatile action against corporates to express their anger and disappointment towards their decision to harm natural habitats.
However, there is a silent villain. An act of crime that hides in plain sight. A way for corporates to reap the benefits without actually doing anything.
Greenwashing is essentially an act of falsely claiming ‘environmentally friendly’ without actually being environmentally friendly. Bluntly put, it is an act of hypocrisy. Brands market their products as a better choice for the environment without making any changes in their production line. These brands would spend more money to market environmentally friendly products than they invest in the actual cause.
But, when did this all start? Let’s back it up a little to the 1980s.
Chevron debuted a series of environmental campaigns to market its commitment to the environment. The campaign, ‘People Do,’ was spread around televisions and print ads throughout the mid-1980s. Albeit, People Do was later dubbed as the gold standard of greenwashing. Why? Well, Chevron ironically spent an exponentially more significant sum of money towards their marketing than the actual act of being green. During this, environmentalist Jay Westerfield coined the term greenwashing.
(Honestly, the act of greenwashing itself has probably run more protracted than we take notice)
But why do brands do it? Don’t they get in trouble?
It’s simple. Profit. Corporates can reap more benefits by labeling their products as green. They can keep their now environment-conscious customers while attracting more customers to buy their products since they state it’s ‘a better choice for the environment.’
Products labeled as green are usually marked up higher in the market. This high price is linked to how customers are willing to spend more money, knowing that their money will be a ‘good cause.’ As empty as that may be. The label eases customers and makes them think they are doing something better for the environment without knowing the truth.
To answer the second question, not really. Brands don’t usually get in trouble by essentially faking their claims. These marketing stunts usually go undetected since many customers also see the label and deem it good enough. When they do get called out, it takes a lot of time and energy for the brand to do something to change it. When they change it, it’s usually not changing their production line, but only the claim for environmentally friendly.
“The global corporation is the most powerful human organization for colonizing the future. By scanning the entire plant for opportunities, by shifting its resources from industry to industry and country to country, and by keeping its overriding soal simple—worldwide profit maximization—it has become an institution of unique power.”
—Richard J. Barnet and Ronal E. Muller
Big corporations, especially multinational companies, need to understand that they hold the highest power in maintaining the ecological balance—primarily since corporate industries produce the highest emissions. The latest reports show that only 100 companies can be responsible for 71% of global emissions. Yet, as of 2019, there are 40.000 companies listed down in the worldwide market. Imagine all the long-term damage that will be left behind to our future generations!
So, what can you do?
Well, first is to educate yourselves. This first step may seem mundane, but it is incredibly crucial. By being educated and building awareness of these issues, you would create more demands for actual products that mean something. Consumers have a higher power in the market. The market provides what we demand, and if demand increases, so will the source for the want—which is why being an intelligent consumer is critical today.
You can also support local and smaller brands that alternate to more environmentally friendly production, packaging, and delivery. Smaller brands would need to adjust to consumer demands more frequently than larger corporates. By creating this demand from the bottom, the effect should ripple to more prominent companies to adapt to these demands.
Of course, we can’t solve this issue overnight. (It has been going on since the 1980s!) But, there is, and there will always be, hope for a better future. We need to fight for our future generation. It is our responsibility to ensure our survival, and we cannot survive without the environment.
Let’s be more conscious of greenwashing!