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Companies Going Green? Or "Greenwashing"

Updated on December 27, 2012

When companies use misleading marketing campaigns or make false claims about their products and how they will impact the environment, it is called "greenwashing". While many companies are genuinely trying to be environmentally responsible, others are taking advantage of the green movement and falsely representing their involvement in making the world a greener place.

Greenwashing Tactics

Going green is a movement that encompasses many different things, including clothing, food, building products, and energy saving products. The demand for green products is high and for businesses that participate in selling them, they represent a huge income opportunity.

While trying to cash in on the green movement, companies design misleading advertising campaigns that falsely promote their environmental responsibility. Greenwashing practises are most common in industries that are environmentally controversial such as oil companies and car manufacturers. In an effort to convince the buying public that they have an interest in environmental issues, they develop ambiguous advertising promotions and product labeling.

FTC Guidelines

The money that these companies spend on their greenwashing campaigns could have gone toward actually making their business more environmentally friendly.  These unethical practices make it more difficult for consumers to tell the difference between truthful advertising and greenwashing campaigns.

In an ongoing effort to combat greenwashing, the FTC has set forth certain guidelines.  They call for more clarity in the claims that businesses make.  Claims cannot deceive the consumer and it should be clear whether the claims refer to the product itself, its packing, or the service the product provides.  They also require that the claim accurately represents the products environmental attributes.  Also, any comparisons made by the company need to be substantiated. 

Stop greenwashing is a website set up by Greenpeace in an effort to combat the problem.  The site provides consumers with information on greenwashing and holds businesses that use the practice accountable for their actions.



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  • HealthyHanna profile image

    HealthyHanna 6 years ago from Utah

    Great Article. Good to see the other side of the environmental movement. Too bad so many people just want to make money.