Washed Green To self-destruction and beyond with greenwashing

To self-destruction and beyond with greenwashing

Washed Green

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More and more, one can notice corporate giants risking their cost-intensively and long-built image with a new fresh repaint from the color palette of entrepreneurial texts of disguise.
There seems to be a clear irony when fast food giant's attempt to wrap their products multiple times to make sure the printed slogan for the conversation directly reaches the customers. Whether they do this on purpose or not – sarcasm and self-importance drip off the cover just like spare grease.

Nevertheless, these corporate giants risk their cost-intensively and well-established image with a fresh repaint from the color palette of entrepreneurial tactics of disguise.

The assortment of consumer deceit

Ensuing from greenwashing, blue and whitewashing have successfully managed to become key words for sneaky mechanisms of self-promotion. The methods only slightly vary and passages are effortless, yet the effects are enormous, harmful, and overall destructive in all scenarios.

Describes the use of communication methods with the aim of providing a company with an environmentally friendly image in the public.

Describes the model corporate management by using methods of communications with the aim to give a company a holistically flawless image. This so-called “clean slate” contradicts specific practices of the company.

Describes a practice where a company portrays itself to be economically sustainable to the public, yet the corporate culture gives no occasion of thinking that this depiction is justified.

Learning from the worst

Not every company manages to switch to an ecologically and economically sustainable corporate culture quickly, yet this is absolutely understandable from an entrepreneurial perspective. Instead of staying away from the topic of sustainability for now, various establishments carry this matter to extremes with corresponding advertisements and claims.

BP has become the classic negative example just before the occurrence of the oil catastrophe in 2010, where the company was faced with very bad promotion. Bp used the slogan “beyond petroleum”, in which it preached its investments loudly in solar energy – and by doing so forgot to mention that it was only marginal amounts. In the field of aviation, Lufthansa touted with particularly low CO2 emissions in efforts to protect the environment and seized on appropriate (and rather lower than real) numbers, graphic renditions, and unfunded results for their advertisements; all of which they chose as it would be a good and efficient selling point.

In the spotlight

The ever-growing public interest in means for optimizing corporate management and the effects of corporate actions cannot be overlooked. Customers have left the realm of uncritical recipients and present themselves as reflective decision makers over victory or defeat of an institution due to the increasing number of possibilities present in efforts to gather information.

Greenwashing indexes and publications put enterprises that behave as such in the pillory with maximum publicity and demand an improvement of the situation. The minds behind the Greenwashing Index (greenwashingindex.com)
have made it a primary business objective to expose deceptive companies and practices as such. Citizens have the possibility as well to reveal the black sheep’s of the industry according to the mentioned criteria of evaluation. On www.stopgreenwash.org (stopgreenwash.org)
however, the famous NGO Greenpeace provides tips for various companies on how they can actually become green instead of just marketing a fake image to be perceived as one. Successful examples even become part of the website.

What is really taking place in the world of greenwashing is shown by www.sinsofgreenwashing.org (sinsofgreenwashing.org)
, where extensive studies and reports with focus on the U-S American and Canadian industries are published. They concisely illustrate the essence of greenwashing as well: the Seven Sins – extensions cannot be ruled out.

Step by step into disaster

After years of greenwashing, specific popular methods have emerged and should make customers prick up their ears. You might want to check again since everything that blooms is not always green. Companies, as well, are able to orient their management on the very aspects that are published for sustainable communication by the British agency futerra (www.futerra.co.uk)
in order to prevent the most common slipping hazards:

  • Vague language:Expressions that seem rather appealing, ecologically friendly and positive at first glance, yet on closer inspection often turn out meaningless. “Eco-friendly” sounds nice, but does not mean anything concrete.

  • Green products from dirty business: Even if the final product is wrapped in recycled paper and biodegradable, this does not influence the harmful impact of the chemicals that are pumped into the rivers by the production company day after day.

  • Suggestive images: Using excessively ecology-emphasized visual language does not shy away from depicting a car whose exhaust pipes puff out flowers.

  • Emphasis on isolated aspects: A “green” aspect promoted by a company might in fact be real, yet the impact of it may be very small in relation to the overall companies efforts. If the rest of the company counteracts this mentality, focusing on this single fact is not justifiable.

  • Top of the class: Only because you are the least addled egg in the box does not mean that you have a reason to be excessively proud of your performance.

  • Goodbye credibility: Placing a green stamp on harmful goods (e.g cigarettes) does not mean that they are suddenly safer.

  • Using lingo: Information that is deliberately worded and incomprehensibly aims at simulating transparency to the customer however in the end is meaningless.

  • Imaginary friends:A label or test seal which aims to indicate sustainability may conveniently come across right from the own design department. Verifying them is usually neither time-consuming nor costly.

  • No proof: Features or issues are communicated but have not gone through enough scientific validation. They most likely do even spare the declaration of references at all.

  • The conventional lie: What is said is not true – be it in slogans or product descriptions. A little unimaginative but still manages to do the trick for inattentive recipients in the short run.

From dyeing to living

A green-, blue- or whitewashing campaign might bring along short-dated medial interest and an even more short-dated image boost, yet sooner or later every company manages to shoot itself in the foot. Returning to an authentic and trustworthy appearance becomes hard and a rather difficult path.

Just like any image makeover, high investments of temporal, cognitive, financial, and personnel kinds are necessary to address target groups as convincingly as possible and hope for an appropriate transition.

Renouncing deception and disguise, with changing over to a transparent, sustainable corporate culture are unalterable conditions.Thinking that such a change speaks for itself and renders expensive unnecessary communication activities is rather utopian. The affair is going to be complex and is going to be expensive.

But in the end, only an authentic and transparent company has a shot for success in the long-run.


Greenwash Guide by Futerra [German

Too long; didn't read

Sustainability and ecological awareness have become increasingly essential aspects of corporate management. Yet, those who do not invest enough strategic thought, time, and – yes, indeed – money in this matter may sooner or later be confronted with countless accusations of green-, white, or bluewashing. This accusation would have more than good reason (most of the time). Numerous organizations, institutions and clubs have started fighting for the exposure of such companies for the public benefit and pillory those black sheep’s well covered by the media. Therefore, the potentially positive effects of greenwashing in the short run bear no proportion to the long-term damage that is about to happen.

In the long run, only credibility and transparency tap the potential for success.

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