More and more people around the world are concerned with the environment. This is reflected in their consumption, as customers look for better products. Meaning “green” products that are better for the planet. Businesses adapt to this trend and frame their products as sustainable. Although, many times they are not. When businesses pretend that they are “green” to sell more, it is called greenwashing.
In other words, greenwashing refers to when a company “paints its business green”. Overall, this is one of the biggest problems for sustainable development. Particularly, as the latter needs a balance between environmental, economic and social needs. However, many businesses are still more concerned with the economic part.
Examples of greenwashing
Greenwashing happens everywhere. A typical sector is the production of clothes. For example, when a clothing company highlights that they produce clothes from recycled material. Meaning that their advertisement has recycled written all over it. When in fact, the recycled part of the production is very small. And the largest part is the production of new clothes. So the company can then continue mass-producing unsustainable clothing. While the consumer believes he or she is buying products that are good for the environment.
What does greenwashing mean?
There is no fixed definition of greenwashing. According to Friends of the Earth, the term emerged as the theme was discussed in society and highlighted by the media. In for example Sweden, the word is used to describing when companies “present something as better for the environment than it actually is”. More so, when they “divert attention from something bad to something that looks good for the environment”. The bad can be anything from pollution to human rights issues. For example, an eco-friendly label can be used to give a false image of the product.
Greenwashing is illegal. As 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 is given to companies or organisations that present their activities as sustainable when they are not. Nominations come from the public and the winner is chosen through a public vote. Swedish forest companies and Preem have been among the winners in the past.