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Greenwashing is when a company “paints its business green” as a way to take advantage of people who care for the environment. Global awareness of climate change is increasing, and more people are concerned with the sustainability of their products. Therefore, customers look for products that do less harm to the planet.

Businesses adapt to this trend and frame their products as sustainable. Although, many times, they are not. Greenwashing is when companies pretend they are “green”. Overall, this is one of the biggest problems for sustainable development, as it needs a balance between environmental, economic and social needs. However, many businesses are still more concerned with the financial part.

Examples of greenwashing

Greenwashing happens everywhere; a typical sector is the production of clothes. For example, a clothing company highlights that they use recycled material in their clothes. Their advertisement has “recycled” written in big letters. Yet, the recycled part of the fabric is minimal. While the most significant part of the clothes gets produced from new material. The false and greenwashing advertisement lets the company continue to mass-produce unsustainable clothing. While the consumers believe they are buying clothes that are good for the environment.

What does greenwashing mean?

There is no fixed definition of greenwashing. Friends of the Earth say that the term emerged in civil society discussions and began to appear in the media. In Sweden, for example, the word is used to describe when companies “present something as better for the environment than it actually is”. More so when companies “divert attention from something bad to something that looks good for the environment”. The bad parts can be anything from pollution to human rights issues.

Greenwashing is illegal. It is a false advertisement and counts as misleading information, which breaks the law in most countries. According to Friends of the Earth, “environmentally friendly” can only refer to products and services that have a neutral or positive impact on the Earth, which excludes many products and companies that are presented as green today.

The Swedish Greenwash Award

Every year, Friends of the Earth in Sweden highlights the problem with greenwashing. By giving out the anti-award “Swedish Greenwashing Price“. It goes to companies or organisations that present their activities as sustainable when they are not. Nominations come from the public, and the winner gets elected through a public vote. Swedish forest companies and Preem have been among the winners in the past.


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