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Greenwashing: What is it?

- Reading Time: 3 minutes

"100% natural", "greener", "eco-friendly"... In an era where awareness about climate change is escalating, brands boast about their eco-conscious initiatives. But is their dedication to green practices genuine? Not always! Numerous businesses exploit environmental concerns for advertising gain. This phenomenon is widely known as Greenwashing. So, what is it exactly? And how can companies demonstrate their true commitment? DataScientest responds to your queries.

What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing, referred to as ‘eco-whitewashing’ in French, capitalizes on the environmental narrative as a marketing tactic. Its purpose: to craft an image of a dedicated corporation to draw in an audience increasingly alarmed by climate change. Yet, in reality, the organization is far from “green”. These marketing maneuvers are misleading and may even qualify as false advertising.

This tactic is especially condemned for the damage it inflicts. On one hand, it dupes the public. Thinking they’re buying a product that’s sustainable, consumers inadvertently contribute to the rise in greenhouse gas emissions.

On the flip side, it detracts from genuinely committed enterprises. With consumers growing more skeptical, they might hesitate to support businesses claiming to be eco-friendly (even if they truly are).

Stricter regulations

Currently, Greenwashing falls under the purview of the Professional Advertising Regulatory Authority and the Agency for Ecological Transition (ADEME). These entities advocate for “fair, honest, and beneficial advertising.”

They are monitoring several advertising forms:

  • Advertisements that deceive consumers;
  • Advertisements associating products with detrimental effects to natural elements;
  • Advertisements significantly over-representing the actual sustainable actions taken.

As of 2021, Greenwashing incurs a specific sanction of 80% of the related expenses. Previously, it was subjected to the penalty for false advertising, which was set at 50% of the expenses.

5 Types of Greenwashing

Within the realm of Greenwashing, numerous deceptive marketing strategies exist:

  • Greenlabelling: the misleading use of terms like “green”, “natural”, “carbon-neutral”, “zero waste”, “ecological”, or “environmentally friendly” without any verifiable evidence. Take, for example, “natural” cleaning products that fail to list their ingredients or manufacturing processes.
  • Greenlighting: the overstatement of environmental efforts. A corporation brands itself eco-responsible following a solitary initiative. It spotlights this effort, which is but a minor facet of its operations, aiming to shift consumer focus. This realm is rife with Greenwashing examples. Consider oil companies underscoring their investments in wind energy, while their core business revolves around fossil fuel extraction. Or fast fashion names that market a line fashioned from organic materials, all the while substantially contributing to escalating waste.
  • Greenhushing: downplaying the environmental repercussions of a primary activity.
  • Greenrinsing: pledging numerous eco commitments without actualizing any tangible outcome. This results in consumer bewilderment.
  • Greencrowding: undertakings involving environmental alliances or pledges lacking any real impact.

All these tactics qualify as Greenwashing if they do not encapsulate sincere company efforts.

The dilemma is that nowadays, an increasing number of corporations wield the ecological argument. For some, it’s outright Greenwashing. For others, there’s a legitimate ecological commitment underpinning their marketing campaigns. In such instances, how can one corroborate the authenticity of their intentions?

How can companies avoid Greenwashing?

Nowadays, consumers are more attuned to Greenwashing schemes. Rather than taking companies at face value, they are in search of concrete evidence. It’s incumbent upon companies to furnish this. How? By harnessing data.

Through their CSR policies or carbon footprints, businesses across all industries can affirm (and fulfill) their pledges to diminish their environmental impact.

Minimizing energy usage, revamping production approaches, altering transportation policies for business treks… All these measures can be substantiated with data.

Nevertheless, one must be adept at amassing this data, decoding it, and elucidating it for the lay public. This is where data experts come into play. They support CSR managers in spotlighting company commitments, free from Greenwashing.

Keen on partaking in this endeavor? Advance your skills in data with DataScientest.

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