Source: Wikimedia

Greenwashing shows companies are feeling the heat over climate change

Everyone agrees that greenwashing is a terrible thing. At best, it’s a cynical manipulation of our expectations by organisations misrepresenting their activities to mislead us into believing they are doing their bit to help combat climate change.

The reason why organisations feel compelled to engage in this level of mendacity and chicanery is because they need to try and keep our custom by covering up the true effects of their activities on the environment.

But instead of changing their processes to make them more environmentally effective, they change their marketing and brand to give the impression they are more climate friendly. It’s despicable behaviour and it needs to be exposed every time it occurs.

The danger of greenwashing is not just in misrepresenting the environmental credentials of a company or product but in the way it could leave many people unable to distinguish between a genuinely green, eco-friendly business or product and an imposter seeking to camouflage itself in green clothing.

This can only help companies engaged in harmful activities to the planet level the environmental playing field when they shouldn’t even be on the pitch. They might preach the message of “save the planet” but all their actions are engaged in trying to “save our profits”.

That greenwashing exists and is becoming so prevalent is a damning indictment of the way many organisations and businesses seek to address the climate crisis, not by taking action to avert it but by claiming they are while doing nothing constructive to protect the planet. It’s not protection, it’s projection.

Right now, our eyes, ears and minds are being polluted by deceptive greenwashing messages from organisations shirking their environmental responsibilities, not just to the planet but to us. We do, after all, share our space on this earth with all the other creatures and living things. What affects them will, ultimately, affect us.

But it is also cause for a degree of optimism: greenwashing wasn’t created out of the blue by someone in marketing or advertising as a means to get you and I to deal with their business or organisation. It was created in response to people demanding better environmental practices from the organisations and companies they deal with.

Admittedly, businesses and organisations are using greenwashing to try and dupe us into believing they are something they’re not but they’re doing it because they have to.

It’s becoming increasingly unacceptable to ignore environmental concerns and that’s forcing organisations to provide some evidence that they are engaged with climate issues. True, some businesses may well provide “evidence” that is highly dubious, but if organisations have to show proof of their “green” credentials, it may become easier to highlight how ineffective those efforts are.

The more “evidence” there is out there in the wild, so to speak, the better chance we have of scrutinising those claims and measuring them against proper environmental practices. Businesses and organisations engaging in greenwashing may manage to con their way onto the environmental playing field but, even if they get onto the pitch, that doesn’t mean they know how to play. They will be found out.

The only worry is that it might take too long to expose them so it’s important for people to try and raise awareness as much as they can. We need to highlight and condemn greenwashing whenever we come across it and explain the methods being deployed to deceive us. We can defeat greenwashing but we can’t wait for it all to come out in the wash.