Greenwashing: a pitfall in environmental sustainability | Daily News

Greenwashing: a pitfall in environmental sustainability

The concept of ‘Green Marketting’ is trending nowadays to market products presumed to be environmentally safe. Green marketting can be considered a sustainable and innovative idea to win green-sensitive consumers.

It also helps with environmental protection. However, a pertinent question is whether green marketting lives up to the real meaning of ‘going green’.

This is where the concept of ‘Greenwashing’ comes. Greenwashing is the practice of misleading consumers about the environmental benefits of the product by making a company seem to be more environmentally friendly than it really is. Misleading green claims could result in consumer distrust on the image of the organisation.

This write-up attempts to explain several greenwashing practices identified by ‘Terra Choice’, a global leader in environmental certification and green marketting, in 2007. It lists seven ‘Sins of Greenwashing’, namely ‘Sin of the hidden trade-off’, ‘Sin of no proof’, ‘Sin of vagueness’, ‘Sin of worshipping false labels’, ‘Sin of irrelevance’, ‘Sin of lesser of two evils’, and ‘Sin of fibbing’.

If the product is suggested as ‘green’ based on a single environmental attribute or narrow attributes without considering other environmental issues, then it can be identified as ‘sin of hidden trade-off’. These products do not give 100 percent environmental support or protection to become ‘green products’. There are some hidden trade-offs.

‘Sin of no proof’ occurs when marketers try to prove their products as ‘green’ with claims that cannot be substantiated by easily accessible supporting information or by a reliable third-party certification.

Every green claim that is poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the consumer is called ‘sin of vagueness’. Examples: ‘All-natural’, ‘Chemical-free’, ‘Environmentally friendly’ etc.

In some cases, the environmental claim may be true, but it is unimportant or irrelevant for the consumer to seek environmentally friendly products. This is called ‘sin of irrelevance’. At times, the claims may be true within that particular product category, but it has a greater impact on the environment and will be a risk for consumers as a whole. That is called ‘sin of lesser of two evils’. ‘Sin of fibbing’ occurs when one simply delivers false information about products.

Some products have included words or images (logos) to give impressions of third-party endorsement, but actually, no such endorsements exist. Those are fake labels. It is called ‘sin of worshiping false labels’.

These are some aspects of ‘greenwashing’. It is a pitfall for the real improvement of environmental sustainability and remains a challenge for green consumer decisions. 


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