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What is greenwashing?

What is greenwashing?


As consumers, shareholders and customers become increasingly concerned about the environment, businesses are under pressure to show their commitment to sustainability.


But this has also led to a phenomenon called "greenwashing" - where companies make exaggerated or false claims about their environmental impact - in an attempt to appeal to more eco-conscious consumers.


A CMA co-ordinated global review of randomly selected websites globally in 2021 found that 40% of green claims made online could be misleading consumers.


Defining greenwashing

The need for evidence-based claims is particularly important when it comes to measuring and reducing carbon emissions. Many companies claim to be "carbon-neutral" or "carbon-free," but these claims can be misleading if not backed up by rigorous scientific analysis. It is important to work with reputable sustainability experts and use reliable carbon accounting tools to ensure that your claims are accurate and credible.

At the same time, it is important to avoid making sustainability claims that are too broad or vague. For example, claiming to be "environmentally friendly" or "sustainable" without providing specific details can be considered greenwashing. Instead, you should provide concrete details about your environmental initiatives, such as energy efficiency measures, waste reduction strategies, or sustainable sourcing practices.

By avoiding greenwashing and making evidence-based sustainability claims, large and small companies can build trust with their customers and stakeholders while also contributing to a more sustainable future.


What kinds of greenwashing are there?


There are several types or categories of greenwashing that have been identified, including:

1. Hidden trade-off: This involves making an environmental claim about a product or service while ignoring other significant environmental impacts. For example, a company may advertise its product as being made from recycled materials, but ignore the fact that the product is shipped long distances and packaged in non-recyclable materials.

2. No proof: This refers to making an environmental claim that cannot be substantiated or verified by reliable evidence. For example, a company may claim that its product is "100% natural" without providing any evidence to support this claim.

3. Vagueness: This involves using terms that are vague or poorly defined, making it difficult for consumers to understand what the environmental claim actually means. For example, a company may advertise its product as being "eco-friendly" without providing any information about what specific environmental benefits the product provides.

4. Lesser of two evils: This involves making an environmental claim that is technically true, but ignores the fact that the product or service still has significant environmental impacts. For example, a company may claim that its product is "better for the environment" than a competitor's product, even though both products still have significant environmental impacts.

5. Irrelevance: This involves making an environmental claim that is technically true, but is irrelevant to the product or service being advertised. For example, a company may claim that its product is "CFC-free" even though CFCs are not used in the production or use of the product.

6. Fibbing: This refers to making an outright false environmental claim in order to promote a product or service as environmentally friendly. For example, a company may claim that its product is certified by a reputable environmental organization, when in fact no such certification exists.


Key takeout: Avoid greenwashing by having contextualised, science-based evidence to back up your claims.


Book a discovery call today to see how ZeroBees could help you avoid greenwashing.

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