Concerns about the environmental impact of different industries have increased, both among companies and consumers. While it is true that many companies attempt to counteract and mitigate these impacts, others prefer to pull the wool over the eyes of consumers who are concerned about this issue. Greenwashing obscures many firms’ lovely promises of eco-responsibility.


What is greenwashing

Greenwashing is a practice that makes it possible to forget the reality, which is to display an eco-responsible posture when, in fact, nothing follows.

When organisations spend more time and money marketing themselves as environmentally friendly than minimising their environmental impact, we are testifying to lies about industries that claim to be greener. 

The strategy followed involves promoting speeches, commercials, actions, documents, and advertising campaigns about being ecologically correct and sustainable. Basically, it is dishonest advertising in which companies create a false appearance to mislead consumers who prefer to buy goods and services from environmentally conscious brands.


Why do companies do this?

Mainly because being perceived as an ethical company boosts sales and profitability. Consumers are more likely to choose and pay more for a product made by an environmentally responsible brand. In the case of millennials (Generation Y), this awareness is even bigger.

However, this practice may not be intentional or conscious. Sometimes, companies lack the essential knowledge or expertise to determine what is truly beneficial for the environment and what is not. On the other hand, many companies buy products from third parties, and although the purchasing company has environmentally sustainable practices, its suppliers may not.

That is why the need for regulation and transparency becomes vital to fight greenwashing and promote genuine change towards more sustainable and ethical industry practices.


Types of greenwashing

  • Greenhushing: Is a practice used by sustainable companies that refuse to disclose information regarding the sustainability of their products or services for fear of criticism. It can be used to hide the guise of being “quietly conscious”, i.e., promoting positive environmental impacts without showing off, but by remaining unclear, the company may give the impression that it is greener than it really is.

  • Greenrising: It entails modifying a company’s sustainable goals – Environmental, Social, and Corporate Governance (ESG) – before they are achieved. When companies fail, reduce, or delay their environmental targets, it raises doubts about their capacity to achieve sustainable goals.

  • Greenlabelling: Refers to marketers claiming to sell environmentally friendly or sustainable products without any scientific proof of it. This happens by including plant symbols or misleading words on packaging, leading consumers to assume that they have environmental credentials.

  • Greenshifting: Consists of holding consumers liable for environmental problems caused by the products or services provided. This way, the public is considered to be responsible for environmental issues generated by the companies themselves.

  • Greenlighting: Consists of highlighting a sustainable feature of services or products to conceal harmful socio-environmental practices. The goal of this strategy is to draw public attention away from the environmental impacts that the company is causing in other areas.

  • Greencrowding: It happens when a corporation joins a sustainable project with other companies and contributes insignificantly. The measures taken may be slow and unproductive. This distracts the public and gives the impression that these companies are doing more to prevent climate change than they are.

  • Woke-washing: Refers to the corporate, institutional, or individual appropriation of socio-environmental agendas to delay structural improvements in society. 

  • Climate-washing: It is a business strategy to capitalise on eco-anxiety through marketing that projects a false impression of commitment to combating climate change. The goal is to capitalise on growing awareness about climate change. Likewise, it seeks to improve the public image of the companies, organisations, and individuals involved without taking meaningful steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions or other negative environmental impacts. 

  • Carbon-washing: It is a business practice in which products are labelled “carbon neutral” or “zero carbon” in a trivialised way. Often replacing terms such as “biodegradable”, “compostable”, and “circular”. Companies thus take advantage of vague and meaningless terminologies in their products or services.


How can we spot greenwashing

The more consumers fall for greenwashing, the more companies will adopt these marketing strategies to boost sales. That is why we need to train our eyes to recognise greenwashing.

But the truth is that verification can be challenging. Most of the time, there is no evidence to back up the claims that a company is greenwashing. What is within our power is to check the product’s component list as well as rely on third-party research and analyst reports.


What companies should do 

This type of deception not only undermines consumer confidence but also diverts attention and investment from truly sustainable initiatives, preventing real progress towards a more responsible and environmentally conscious industry.

Companies must adopt transparent and authentic measures, such as:

  • Provide clear and detailed information about production processes and materials used;

  • Provide concrete and measurable data on actions aimed at sustainability;

  • Be transparent about the environmental and social impacts of the entire supply chain;

  • Invest in innovation and research to reduce the use of natural resources and minimise the environmental footprint;

  • Engagement in corporate social responsibility practices, such as supporting local communities and implementing recycling and reuse programs.


And relax, everybody knows that it is impossible to be completely sustainable. What is necessary is to be honest and find a way to reduce the impact caused by production and consumption in all industries.