Do you remember the incident when Christiano Ronaldo removed the Coco-Cola bottles during a press conference? While that was done to demonstrate the ill effects of carbonated drinks, there is another aspect of the cola giant, which needs to be brought to notice.
In 2021, Coca-Cola spent millions of dollars on advertisements to promote its message of using recycled plastic for packaging its beverages. In a particular video from Coco-Cola, the quality safety and environment manager claims that the company uses “all bottles under 1 liter are made of 100% recycled plastic”, but the entire video does not disclose that it is the largest producer of plastic pollution in the world. As per Brand Audit Report 2021 conducted by Break Free From Plastic, the soft drink company is the world’s worse corporate plastic polluter for the fourth year in a row.
With increasing awareness among consumers to adopt sustainable and environment-friendly choices, the companies have started to showcase themselves as champions of environmental protection. From fashion to food, from energy to electronics, and from cars to cosmetics, every other brand is trying to woo consumers by using words or images like “organic”, “natural”, “green”, “eco-friendly”, etc.
Unfortunately, these words and images are facades and deceitful forms of messaging.
What does Greenwashing mean?
When through false and deceptive claims, companies make you believe that it is making an effort to protect the environment, when in fact, things are staying the same or even getting worse, it is called Greenwashing.
In other words, Greenwashing means the process in which any brand, product, service, or company overstates or lies about its green credentials through advertising, packaging, or other forms of communications.
In a global review conducted by The International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network (ICPEN) in January 2021 of 500 websites, it was found that 40 percent of green claims might be deceptive. In another study by Changing Markets Foundation in 2021, 59 percent of green claims made by fashion manufacturers are deceptive and unsupported by UK’s Competitive and Market Authority Criteria.
The practice is not only unethical but it also hurts the businesses that are genuinely making a progressive change to the environment.
How do companies accomplish Greenwashing?
Let us look at some of the strategies employed by the company to mislead consumers about their green claims.
- Companies indulging in greenwashing increasingly use green buzzwords, display eye-catching logos, and show images, or icons of things like leaves, flowers, animals, and other aspects of nature in their advertisements and messaging.
- Another marketing tactic in greenwashing is to display partial information on the product about the environmental impact to the extent of even exaggerating the benefits.
- Many times companies repackage and rebrand their product and services to influence consumers’ perceptions.
- Using complex jargon and technical terms on their packaging or advertisements is another way to achieve greenwashing. Most consumers do not understand these terms and often buy them based on the claims made.
- Greenwashing in business also sometimes unnecessarily highlights only the green aspects of the product or service, while playing down and hiding the harmful side effects. For example, companies can emphasize their non-plastic packaging but will not disclose the chemicals or the overuse of water in making their products.
It is important that consumers are aware of these marketing gimmicks that give a false sense of environmental protection and