As the debates surrounding environmental degradation are gaining traction, sustainability has become a hot topic. In light of this, corporations are embracing eco-friendly practices to appease their environmentally responsible clientele. But are these so-called green claims made by many companies really authentic or just a smokescreen devoid of substantiality?
What is greenwashing?
Greenwashing is the act of covering up disreputable information about a company’s environmental impact and painting an environmentally friendly picture of their products through a biased presentation of facts. It is a bogus marketing technique to deceive customers who favour buying products from environmentally conscious brands. The phrase was coined in the 1980s to reflect the downright bizarre environmental claims corporations were making to appear more environmentally responsible when in reality, they were engaging in such unsustainable practices that they haunt us till this day.
These sorts of marketing practices have been around for a long time, but the current craze of greenwashing is especially filled with clouds of mistrust and controversy. For instance, in 2018 Starbucks launched a straw-less lid owing to the increasing criticism for plastic straw usage. But the new lid wound up containing more plastic by weight than the old straw-and-lid combination. It is a perfect example of greenwashing, where it looks like the company is taking big steps to ‘prove’ their concern for the environment. However, in actuality, they are just fooling the customers. Even the bodies or organisations that award eco-friendly initiatives distribute awards to companies like the Saudi Aramco, a fossil fuel company, in return for entry and membership fees. It is a blatant illustration of the lengths that companies are willing to go so they can appear pro-environment.
Greenwashing has become a widespread practice, and companies are indulging in ‘pro-environmental’ efforts to endear themselves to consumers. Many refuse, or are unable, to change the dark and frustrating paradox that remains at the heart of their business model; that their company requires inherently unsustainable practises to be profitable.
The consequences of corporate greenwashing are far too many.
Corporate greenwashing may seem like a minor notch in the grand scheme of saving the environment, but its consequences can impact both business and environment in a big way. For starters, in some countries, greenwashing can have major legal implications. For example the US Federal Trade Commission can take enforcement action against companies that use ambiguous claims in the labelling, marketing, or promotion of their goods. If found guilty, corporations can be served with cease and desist orders and financial penalties. Earlier this year, the state of Massachusetts took legal action against ExxonMobil, alleging that the oil and gas giant was misleading its customers with deceptive campaigns about the impact of their products on the climate.
From an environmental standpoint, the primary danger comes from the distortion of consumer trust. People may buy products from these “not so green” companies and accidentally contribute towards hurting the environment when, in reality, they intended to do the opposite. Not only is this spreading scepticism and distrust in the eyes of consumers, but as a result also undermining and disregarding the companies that are indeed putting their green claims into action.
The ever increasing slope of carbon emission.
The issue of greenwashing does not end at deceptive claims, it also brings forth the point of companies acting unsustainably, and how it is affecting our planet. Lack of ecological awareness in the marketplace comes with a hefty environmental price tag. Take Netflix, for example: In its inaugural environmental, social and governance report, Netflix disclosed that its global energy consumption increased by 84% in 2019 to a whopping total of 451,000 megawatt hours. This much energy is enough to power 40,000 average U.S. homes for a whole year.
Like Netflix, several other companies realise the impact but are not taking any sustainable action to offset the blow. It is high time we understand the scale of the danger the environment faces from carbon emissions. Companies should not only think about the present but also about the future, and start taking serious measures to reduce their carbon footprints.
How to check greenwashers and make environmentally informed decisions?
Before falling for a company’s so-called eco-friendly platitudes and gimmicky campaigns, consumers should check whether this green vendor, after inspection, actually provides evidence for such policies. Do they really follow through with these claims behind the scenes or is this just a disguise to hide their genuinely unsustainable ways?
Consumers need to examine these green policies thoroughly, take stock of the language being used and verify any awarding or certifying bodies. Start taking action against greenwashers by outing and reprimanding them and promote businesses that are legitimately taking a stand to support sustainable reforms. At the same time, brands should also take responsibility for their shortcomings and instead of using deceptive PR techniques, start investing in genuine environment-friendly reforms.
Ardoa has taken the first steps in achieving carbon footprint targets.
Last year, to meet our 2019 carbon emissions target, Ardoa Organics dedicated 15 hectares of farmland in Alicante to the cultivation of hemp, which exemplifies our vision for Ardoa Organics to become carbon negative by 2022. We grew the plants organically with an efficient irrigation system that allowed for sparing use of water. The plants were harvested by hand and hung-dried to preserve maximum quality, to be used in our newly developed CBDa and THCa capsule products. Through this process, we captured around 250 tonnes of carbon, based on the standard models of the carbon capture potential of hemp. The Alicante project was already our second season capturing carbon this way. In 2018, we cultivated 10 hectares in Burgos, Spain in a similar way. This demonstrates our ongoing commitment to our environmental responsibilities… no greenwashing needed here.
This culture of deceptive “green” marketing has taken many new forms over the years. For the most part, greenwashing companies and corporations can be divided into two categories:
- When they try to cover up their inherent unsustainability by taking ‘action’ towards green reforms.
- When they use ambiguous language to gain the attention of environmentally concerned folks without actually living up to their claims.
No matter the type, the critical thing to note here is that greenwashing is actually growing at an alarming rate, as more and more consumers demand change. This is leading to a marketplace that is more duplicitous than ever and the only way we can combat this is by carefully identifying and choosing thoughtful, ethical brands over deceptive ones. The bottom line is that any form of greenwashing is standing in the way of concrete ecological initiatives, the aftermath of which can significantly influence the environment. But all is not lost… yet.