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Greenwashing as a Corporate Marketing Strategy

Posted By G Living Staff Monkies On November 10, 2007 @ 1:16 am In Green Report / Media | No Comments

I came across the term “greenwashing” recently while surfing through the blogosphere. I didn’t know what it was, so I did some investigating. Wikipedia describes greenwashing as “a term that is used to describe the actions of a company, government, or other organization which advertises positive environmental practices while acting in the opposite way.” I had an inkling that major corporations might have latched on to this idea as a way to boost the bottom line but I wanted to know: a) how they managed to greenwash their exteriors; and b) which companies were the guiltiest.

Here’s what I came up with:

Perhaps the easiest way to buy your way into the green is to purchase “renewable energy credits” (RECs) and then claim that their power is clean and green. Essentially, a company can pay money to “invest” in renewable energy without actually using it and without actually changing the way the company does business. So, the benefit is that RECs act as a source for renewable energy revenue. Unfortunately, this is a completely voluntary program and it really feels like a payoff for companies to do what they want; at the core, we all need to focus on how to make the difficult change away from traditional, fossil-fuel driven markets.

The list of companies that greenwash is rather long and includes some of America’s most recognizable brands (Nike, Starbucks, and FedEx to name a few). What’s more important is that I found many resources for keeping track of greenwashing — including Business Week — and businesses are being held more accountable through the rapid transfer of information that the internet provides.

What can we do? It all starts with paying attention, seeing through a company’s attempt to green-gild their image, making sure that if a company markets itself as using renewables that it is actually doing it. And then it comes down to choice. We must ask ourselves what is gained and what is lost in buying certain products.

Click here to view a US Department of Energy presentation on RECs.

Click here to find out how to keep an eye on your favorite/least favorite corporations.

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