Greenwashing - Who Are The Worst Offenders?
The term "greenwashing" is defined as companies intentionally misrepresenting their products as environmentally friendly when, in fact, they aren't. They do it to cash in on the growing consumer concern with environmental matters.
There are many ways companies can greenwash their products: they can sell energy efficient products that are inefficient to produce or that contain hazardous materials, they can lie about their products being "certified organic" (this happens a lot more than you would think), they can claim that their products are 100% natural (and omit the detail that many naturally occurring substances are harmful to nature) or they can boast about being more environmentally friendly than their competitors (when both products are ultimately bad for the environment and the slight advantage is negligible in the big picture).
According to research conducted by TerraChoice Environmental Marketing, a mere 2% of products that make claims about being green are telling the truth. The rest are guilty of greenwashing.
- Shell. In 2007, Shell produced a series of newspaper advertisements that depicted the chimneys of the company's refineries emitting flowers rather than smoke. The ads claimed that Shell uses "[its] waste CO2 to grow flowers." In truth, the company uses a mere 0.325 % of its CO2 to grow flowers and most of it is released in such a way that damages the environment. The Advertising Standards Authority received complaints about the ads and ultimately ruled in favor of the complainants. Ultimately, Shell withdrew the advertisements.
- Airbus. This aerospace manufacturer has made some very misleading claims. One such claim – "Flying in an A380, you're personally creating less CO2 than you would do driving the average family car" – grossly misrepresented the truth by ignoring the distance traveled. Flying across the Atlantic and back is the equivalent, per person, of driving a car for an entire year. Not exactly green.
- BAE Systems. This company makes weapons that helps the military go places and kill people. In 2006, it tried to reposition itself as a green and ethical corporation. We've probably said enough.
- Most zoos. It's common practice for zoos to proudly claim to be leaders in conservation. The truth is that many zoos really only care about conserving their own stock of animals. Very rarely are animals born in a zoo released into the wild (there are agencies that actually do this, but they are usually government agencies and not private zoos). Despite the fact that many zoos are increasing the sizes of the cages they use, the animals inside them are still robbed of a normal life.