Wikipedia defines greenwashing as the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly. The deceptive use of green PR or green marketing....
The piggy-backing of companies on the growing popularity of the green movement is evident everywhere we look. In fact, there is hardly a tool in existence to measure the mountain of marketing designed for this purpose. These practices are broad and not always apparent however. The key is to open our eyes and to the barrage of influence companies seek to have over our hearts, minds and wallets. To be aware of marketers intentions and tools is the first step to awakening these senses.
It is not enough to simply be aware though. We must then act on our knowledge. Using our judgements at every turn to make the right decisions for ourselves, our children and our world. Eventually industries and individual companies will hear the call and reform their practices. There is no incentive to change, however, if there is no change in buying behavior on the part of individuals.
Marketers know very well how to spark consumers sense of responsibility and ethics. Companies big and small have become quite keen to the emotions evoked by natural textures and earthy hues. They know how powerful images of untouched natural splendor can be. The question we have to ask is whether these images truly reflect their business model.
It is this constant critique that give us the power to decipher these messages with clarity. Who is this company? What do they make? Where are the products made? Do we know how they make their products and how they deal with waste? Does their industrial process include measures to conserve resources? What are their social and labor policies and do they adhere to them? Does the company market some eco-freindly products while also producing other obviously unsustainable products? It is immensely difficult to sift through this maze of information and marketers know this. There is a definite attempt by marketers to paint a pretty picture of a company despite the obvious inconsistencies.
Unfortunately it seems to be working. Otherwise, how could a company such as Wal-Mart market itself as green? CFL's or not, this is a company that requires 20-30 acres of land per store, ships at least 50% of its products from halfway around the world, and carry an inventory most of which ends up in a landfill within two years due to low quality.
The environmental movement at hand is nothing new, and it should be considered how some companies have conducted business in the past despite the presence of empirical environmental data and common sense.
The world is not black and white however, and I do not presume that all companies with tarnished pasts do not deserve second, third and fourth chances. Ultimately, the proof is in the pudding and if such companies truly re-invent themselves and take an active role, we must applaud them.
To nit-pick is not the goal here, but to expose insincerity and discourage the dilution of the green movement 's effectiveness. Businesses that seek real and lasting sustainability should not have to compete with businesses who's goal is simply to look environmentally and socially conscious. More importantly, people should not be subject to such misinformation that may be hard to disprove, but obvious in its intention and misgivings.
It is up to all of us to hold companies, as well as ourselves, accountable for our impact on the Earth. And at this junction, our dollars are our strongest voice.