Prof. Anand S

As consumers, we take a shine to companies and brand that proclaim their concern for the environment and our health. But many companies promote their products as safe to consume, natural or organic, and with a low carbon footprint on the environment, which, in reality, are false.

Greenwashing is a ploy in marketing to make people believe that a company is doing more to protect the environment than it is. As a result, they invest more time and money in marketing their products as green than doing the hard work to ensure sustainable development. Companies intentionally do it through a wide range of efforts in marketing and PR, which misleads well-intentioned customers. On the other hand, some greenwashing is unintentional because of a misunderstanding of sustainability.

<aside> 🚗 One such classic greenwashing case is that of the car giant Volkswagen, which had admitted to cheating emissions tests by fitting various vehicles with a “defeat” device. This device is proprietary software that could detect when the car was undergoing emissions testing and alter the performance to reduce emissions. In addition, it continued to promote the low-emissions features of its vehicles through marketing campaigns. In truth, however, these engines were emitting up to 40x the allowed limit for nitrogen oxide pollutants.


<aside> 🥤 Coke was accused of greenwashing when it claimed to use natural sugar in its beverages to attract health-conscious consumers.


<aside> 🏭 British Petroleum renamed itself Beyond Petroleum in 2004. It proudly declared its commitment to alternative energy sources by playing up its investments in wind, solar, and biofuels. Yet, the bulk of its profits and assets were in fossil fuels that are polluting.


We would do well to delve deeper into claims made by companies to avoid being trapped by greenwashing. With greenwashing, companies stand to lose their credibility and goodwill among their customers. They can expect a severe backlash too.