Greenwashing is a company’s allocation of energy and resources to appear ethical, environmentally conscious and socially aware. The issue is not investment into a good cause, but rather investment to convey a false message. In this case, a company’s cloak of a ‘green direction’ relates to monetary value rather than positive change.
The concept of greenwashing is not a new one; New York environmentalist Jay Westervelt coined the term in the 1980s. However, with a greater spotlight on corporate environmental responsibility, the problem is becoming more frequent. Words like sustainable, green, conscious or ethical are hard to define in legislation and have therefore been exploited. Like magic, clever marketing and PR can make it hard for even the discerning consumer to distinguish between genuinely sustainable practices and the appearance of them.
Greenwashing can take different forms depending on the industry and the level of corruption in each business. So how can you avoid the inflated costs that are associated with a sustainably unsustainable brand? From my own experience, greenwashing can take three main forms: