I’m back with another post on greenwashing! Positively, since I started writing about greenwashing a few years ago, society has become more attuned to green-tinted marketing ploys. Most people are aware of and concerned about climate change, plastic pollution, and biodiversity loss. It’s now commonplace for companies to have sustainability policies on their websites. Moreover, many marketing departments have cottoned on to the fact that consumers are savvier, and are thus careful about the eco claims they make. Nonetheless, some brands clearly missed the memo. Worst case, these companies are straight up misleading consumers. Best case, they have confused messaging. So, without further ado, here are some examples of greenwashing that I’ve spotted in 2021.
Hello, I’m NOT a Paper Bottle
This example of greenwashing has been going round the Internet, and deserves an honorable mention. Innisfree, a South Korean beauty company, launched this greenwashed packaging – a plastic bottle covered in paper, in 2020. The PR spokesperson told BBC that “This product is called ‘paper bottle’ to make it easier to explain the role of paper labels wrapping outside of the bottle.” Although their new packaging may use 51.8% less plastic than the previous packaging, this type of greenwashed marketing is unacceptable.
— Teresa Anderson (@1TeresaAnderson) April 8, 2021
Ikea Recycling its Way out of a Crisis
Ikea’s new ad “Fortune Favours the Frugal” highlights waste, particularly single use items. The commercial was also used in part to launch Ikea’s commitment to becoming a circular company by 2030. In the meantime, Ikea is the home goods equivalent to fast fashion, and has been caught logging protected old growth forests. There’s nothing wrong with the message of needing to change our habits, but buying more mass-produced products isn’t the answer, when there are so many other truly frugal options available.
The Power of Nature
Two classic cases of greenwashing are Air Wick’s Botanica candle range, and Pantene’s bamboo grow strong hair products. I mean, look at the packing — imagery of plants, and “inspired by nature”. The candle claims to be “responsibly sourced”, which doesn’t mean anything in terms of ethical sourcing and production. Pantene’s products are chemical-based; any truly natural ingredient benefit is negligible.
Save the Planet by Drinking Beer
This commercial baffled me the first time I saw it on t.v. It had my attention and my first thought was “oh, Greenpeace has gone artsy and started campaigning on Channel4”. No, it was selling beer… I think. The thing is, these films produced by Estrella Damm, a Spanish beer brand, are promoting their sustainability initiatives. Based in Barcelona, it’s clear that this brand has commitment to improving the health of the Mediterranean Sea. These films were actually meant to highlight their support for a marine rehabilitation centre.
My issue is that the advert is confused messaging. Are they telling me about the rehabilitation programme, or do they want me to buy beer? Using conservation projects to market consumption is greenwashing in my opinion. This film campaign left me confused and suspicious, rather than me giving them a virtual pat on the back for saving sea turtles. You can watch the films on their website.
Is it Dolphin Safe?
Have you watched Seaspiracy? Yeah, me too. Are you put off eating tinned tuna? Me too. I’m not a seafood lover: I don’t like the taste and I’ve always thought why would I want to eat something that lives on the bottom of the ocean eating other creatures’ poop? I’m also very much aware of the pollutants in the oceans, and the devastation that bycatch practices in commercial fishing have on the environment.
Obviously, there is a huge percentage of the global population that rely on seafood for their livelihood, and subsistence. My opinion is that people like myself should reduce their intake. Western society should shift away from large-scale unsustainable commercial fishing, and we need clean up the oceans. That being said, I do still eat tinned tuna from time-to-time. I was therefore disappointed to learn that the dolphin safe guarantee on the label is not a guarantee. That’s not to say the programme isn’t doing good work in reducing dolphin deaths caused in bycatch. But, at the end of the day, it’s false advertising and greenwashing if you add a label to a pack guaranteeing something when it’s not a 100% guarantee.
For more information on Seaspiracy and the Dolphin Safe labeling, I found this article by The Guardian informative, and this Marine Policy article insightful on the difference in UK versus USA tuna market labeling.
Not your Grandad’s Hankie
I’ve seen loads of ads on YouTube for the Last Tissue. This is a pack of 6 “reusable tissues made from 100% organic cotton”. In other words, it’s a pack of 6 handkerchiefs in a silicone case. You can find/make cotton handkerchiefs for basically nothing. I have some that I’ve sewn myself from scrap fabric, and I’ve got loads of secondhand ones (just boil wash and they’re fine). I call greenwashing on this £20 carrying case masquerading as a sustainable option.
For more on Greenwashing see:
Also Check Out:
Gittemary talks about the greenwashing of H&Ms points-based return/recycle scheme. This scheme is essentially a glorified marketing ploy to trick shoppers into thinking it’s sustainable to recycle clothes in order to get vouchers to buy more fast fashion.
Shelbi’s video touches on determining the line between boycotting unsustainable brands, or encouraging them when they do make sustainable changes. In particular, should we support brands when these small changes make more environmentally-friendly options available to a wide demographic? Positive feedback to brands making these changes can influence them to focus on more sustainable initiatives, because that’s what sells. This could be a more effective activism approach rather than boycotting in silence.
In order to accelerate the conversation and action on sustainability, we need a time-out on greenwashing. We need to call out companies that are taking advantage of the popularity of eco-friendly trends, but who are only focused on profit. It’s time to demand transparency in marketing claims. Finally, we need to encourage companies who are putting in the effort to make real change. Have you come across any examples of greenwashing? If so, feel free to share!