By Ellie Peach
Greenwashing is a term that has been used since 1986. It was coined by Jay Westerveld, an environmentalist who noticed companies were exploiting their use of advertisements in newspapers, TV and radio to claim to be more environmentally beneficial than they actually were. This was particularly true in cases such as large oil and fuel corporations.
Despite now having wider access to information, greenwashing is still very common and relatively easy to achieve by brands. While the vast majority of us have all the information and facts we could want at our fingertips by using the internet or social media, it doesn't stop us from being persuaded that a company is 'green' through its billboards and video ads.
How it is used now
Greenwashing is all about marketing campaigns and strategies. If a company convinces people that their impact on the planet or people is low, there is a higher chance that people will continue or start supporting it. It has become particularly prevalent in recent years as more people are concerned about the environment and want to ensure their impact is as small as possible. Companies can use this increased desire to be sustainable by claiming they care about it as well. They might use keywords such as 'recyclable', or' biodegradable', for instance, to make us believe the brand is actively trying to be more conscious.
If we want to know more about a company we can find it. However, this means a company has to get smarter with the way they advertise. This could mean they might bring out sustainable collections, using earth tones and green colours. They may use more of the keywords as aforementioned and will most likely be less transparent than they could be. This purposeful missing out of particular details completely omits a company's wrong actions while allowing any good things they claim to do to overshadow anything else.
How do you know when a company is being genuine?
Before buying a product or service from a company, do your research. Look up articles specifically about them, reviews, and video essays breaking them down. This way, you'll be able to understand a narrative not controlled by the company in question. In most situations, you will be able to find out all those hidden bad parts, and in turn, you will be able to make a more informed decision about whether they are worth your support. Another thing to do is go on their website and see what they share with their customers. Suppose they have a well in-depth sustainable journey and explain where their products come from and how they are made. In that case, they are more likely to be a company that genuinely cares about the environment rather than one that claims to be sustainable but conveniently misses out on the materials used or the working conditions of their employees, for example.
It will always be more of a challenge to know if every company we come into contact with has genuine intentions. With the vast amounts of misinformation we experience daily, we all just have to be a little more aware of how companies can use marketing to manipulate how we view them.