Greenwashing Examples 2022: How to not do Greenwashing?


You may be familiar with the term whitewashing in the corporate world, which is an act of covering up the scandalous and shameful information about the company by delivering a biased illustration of the related and supporting facts. But greenwashing isn’t as popular among general audiences.  

Don’t worry. We intend to explain everything about greenwashing in this article. You will clearly understand greenwashing examples, its impact on brands, why brands institute this approach, how not to do greenwashing, and the importance of addressing it at the end of this article. 

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Stick till the end, and let’s start with the basics: 

What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is an act of disguising any company’s true nature and intention behind green marketing, promising the customers the hope and expectations of a greener ecosystem. Or (simply), greenwashing is when an establishment claims to be environmentally conscious for branding and marketing pursuits but isn’t making any noteworthy sustainability efforts.  

Companies spend fortunes on creating ads and running marketing campaigns to establish themselves as environment-friendly but do not (actually) live up to their words in reality and don’t consider minimizing the environmental impacts.  

Greenwashing Examples Factories

These companies would rather violate the environmental guidelines behind the scenes and cover them up with false hopes and advertisements. It is a fraudulent gimmick intended to mislead audiences and consumers that prefer to conduct business with an environmentally conscious and responsible company. 

Greenwashing can be a deliberate and consciously planned execution or sometimes unintentional and lack (of) proper knowledge on the subject. Including phrases like all-natural, organic, earth-friendly, etc., impact consumers more, but the company should be transparent enough to support its claims. Else, it’s a case of greenwashing. 

Why do companies institute greenwashing?

Greenwashing is an alluring gimmick, and anyone can fall for it. The present generation are more conscious about their health and the environment. They are more likely to follow trends and are easily impacted by green marketing gimmicks, which is deceitfully greenwashing.   

The present generations have a higher tendency to buy products and services from environmentally conscious brands. They like to feel like a part of the trend of giving back to nature and caring about sustainability and greenery.  

GreenPrint’s 2021 Business of Sustainability Index survey shows that 64% of Gen X buy products from a sustainable brand, and the percentage jumps to 75% for Gen Y or millennials. You see where the drive for greenwashing comes from. 

These trends are (the actual reason) why companies institute greenwashing disguised as green marketing. These companies take advantage of the needs of consumers and present themselves as brands that care about the environment on different levels.  

The fraudulent companies spend huge sums to create and run tempting marketing campaigns that attract customers, increasing their sales and overall revenue. They try their best to hide all dirty deeds behind the scenes and are only exposed if concerned authorities go in-depth to research and study their cores.  

Many companies are still successfully deceiving the authorities or illegally buying their clean slate to conduct business. Businesses undermine the health and well-being of humanity and the earth and focus on earning wealth (above all), the exact reason behind greenwashing instituted by many companies.  

How does greenwashing damage a brand’s reputation?

Greenwashing may seem like a legit way to earn customers and improve sales funnels to some marketers that undermine the concerned authorities and the power of research and study by the general public. 

The gimmick marketing will only succeed until someone exposes them. In this era of the internet and innovative technologies, anyone concerned about the subject can find out the truths, and greenwashing is no different scenario. 

Greenwashing has a severe negative effect on the customers that may lead to a complete crumbling of the establishments if not admitted and taken responsibility to address them on a public level. There are several cases where giant organizations have dusted their reputation due to greenwashing. 

Greenwashing leads to reputation damage

GreenPrint’s survey fielded in 2021 shows that 74% of Americans are ready to switch gasoline brands if those brands offset carbon emissions. Brand switching is not new globally, and consumers are prepared to do so if they discover their brands’ deceitfulness. 

A brand can completely lose its credibility, reputation, and customers and even face legal consequences that result in huge monetary penalties. These scenarios will likely destroy years of hard work, blood, sweat, and tears within no time if proven guilty. 

Greenwashing is a dangerous game of gambling that holds greater stakes and huge results, but it isn’t sustainable, and someday the truth will surface to the public, causing unbearable troubles to the brand.  

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Some infamous greenwashing examples that cost brands their prestige

It is indeed (very) challenging to keep your promise and live up to the expectations of your customers when it comes to green products or simply greens. Many companies have sold their dreams of sustainability and eco-friendly companies to their customers and failed to practicalize in reality. 

Here are some infamous greenwashing companies examples of brands that (some) have and (some) are still using green marketing only to deceive their customers; in fact, greenwashing them.  

1. Volkswagen’s rigged diesel cars

Volkswagen promoted its diesel cars as eco-friendly since they emitted fewer pollutants despite using diesel. This claim turned out to be a lie upon a detailed inspection.

Volkswagen had carefully and intentionally programmed the cars’ computers to detect the emission test and alter the outcomes to meet the standards even when they didn’t meet them. 

The car company had used “defeat devices” to cheat the emission test, and in fact, those vehicles ejected pollutants up to 40x the U.S. limit. 

Volkswagen paid a hefty price of USD14.7 billion to settle the allegations.  

2. EasyJet’s 22% Less CO2 emission

EasyJet proclaimed that their jet emitted 22% less carbon dioxide than other planes traveling the same route. They did so in a nationwide press advertisement that drew much attention.

The Advertising Standards Agency later debunked the claim since EasyJet did not clarify whether the metric was based on the number of passengers on the plane or other reasons.

Later, EasyJet confessed that the claim was per passenger and not a total CO2 output, which is completely misled green claims. The ASA let EasyJet get a free pass with a warning of clearer advertisement in the future.

3. Westinghouse’s cleaner air & sustainable society via nuclear energy ⚡ 

Westinghouse aired a fresh commercial claiming to provide sustainable power through nuclear energy, which exaggerated clean air, employment opportunities, and sustainable communities. 

The irony of the company’s commercial was that, two years earlier, Nuclear Regulatory Commission had cited Westinghouse for disguising defects in its reactor designs and supplying false details to controllers. 

Additionally, in 2016, New York’s Indian Point, a plant that used Westinghouse reactors, leaked radioactive ☢ pollutants into the surrounding area’s water. 

This green marketing approach is completely shameful of the Westinghouse.  

4. Chevron Corporation’s “People Do” for ecosystem

In the 1980s, Chevron Corporation, an oil company, commissioned numerous expensive tv commercials and other forms of ad campaigns to convince audiences of its eco-friendly stature. This approach won the hearts of many, including an Effie advertising award, in 1990. 

The reality was the company was violating numerous guidelines, including Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act, through its various questionable anti-environmental acts that were recorded as proof of the false sustainability claims to cover up their dirty deeds. 

Chevron played with the emotion of the audiences and the whole ecosystem, which can be set as the gold standard of greenwashing. 

5. DuPont’s Disgraceful Marine animal features

DuPont was one of the biggest names after the world war, founded in 1802. It covered every sector of people’s life with everyday utilities, from cooking pots to 🛢 oil shipping containers. The company inspired everyone then and based most of its ad campaigns on environmental issues.

DuPont spent huge budgets on its series of “Better Things For Better Living.” ad campaigns (that) illustrated its concern about humanity, saving the ecosystem, and many ideal visions.

One of the most appreciated was the one that introduced ‘an energy unit, Conaco Double-Hulled Oil Tankers, in order to safeguard the environment.

The irony was the data accumulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which (clearly) indicated that DuPont was the largest environment polluter in 1989. The stats showed the company had released more than 348 million pounds of contaminants to land, water, and air, which was 10 million more than the previous year, 1988. 

It is not the only case of DuPont’s greenwashing case; the company has many records of falsely advertising and even using toxic materials to make utensils for cooking. DuPont surpassed the levels of greenwashing and had to pay for it when they were exposed.  

How do you avoid unintentional greenwashing?

The first step to avoiding unintentional greenwashing is to focus on your business model, structure your business operations carefully, and consider the elements of green products and services, and cross-check if it violates any such guidelines without your knowledge.  

Proper study and research on greenwashing can help your brand escape the constraints of involuntary greenwashing.  

Any company should carefully and thoroughly revise its marketing plans before delivering them to the public. Simple words like eco-friendly, all-natural, organic, non-toxic, earth-friendly, chemical-free, clean, etc., can negatively impact the brand’s stature if the audiences fail to connect with the idea. 

Your brand should not violate any guidelines regarding environmental issues. Maintain 100% transparency with the customers & legal bodies that examine your level of sustainability and responsibility toward the environment if you use such marketing phrases.  

Here are some pointers that you should follow to avoid greenwashing:

  1. Always prove the points you include in your products and services; if you cannot, do not claim such facts.
  2. Do not make claims of vague and broad subjects with phrases like all-natural, non-toxic, etc., if you cannot elaborate on such a topic; else, audiences can misunderstand the intention. 
  3. Never use fake labels and illegitimate green certifications on your products; the truth can be revealed on closer inspections. 
  4. Don’t make irrelevant claims such as CFC-free since the law already bans it, and no one makes use of CFC. 
  5. Do not promote your products and services with false hopes and broken promises if you cannot deliver. 
  6. Be sure to address the whole ecosystem if you plan to claim such facts. Claiming to produce biodegradable utensils but polluting land, air, and water (in the process) with toxic chemicals doesn’t justify your claim. 
  7. Do not use evocative images that do not justify your products or illustrate an unjustified green appearance. (E.g., green leaves on exhaust).
  8. Do not use made-up tags that look like a collaborative endorsement but (actually) are completely fabricated.  

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Conclusion: It is important to address greenwashing…

Greenwashing is a serious issue, and everyone should act to address it. Fabricating lies and selling products that harm human health and the environment must be treated with lethal consequences.

Global authorities should design and set standard guidelines globally, and everyone should support the cause. Consumers should strictly consider these issues and boycott those brands that do not comply with the legal guidelines.

Greenwashing illustration Earth

Brands should become responsible for the earth’s ecosystem and work to improve all flora and fauna and every possible element required for a sustainable world.

Greenwashing isn’t the solution for brands; transparency and dedication toward genuine eco-friendly products and services will help capitalize on the present generation audiences.

Frequesntly Asked Questions (FAQ)

What are the types of greenwashing?

Greenwashing can be categorized into 5 types: Environmental Imageries, Hidden trade-offs, Misleading labels, Lesser of two evils, and Irrelevant Claims. 

7️⃣ What are the 7 sins of greenwashing?

The 7 sins of greenwashing are Sin of:
1. No Proof
2. Lesser of 2 Evils
3. Worshiping False Labels
4. Vagueness
5. Irrelevance
6. Fibbing
7. Hidden Trade-Off 

🤔 Is greenwashing intentional?

Yes, most of the time, greenwashing is intentionally disguised as green marketing. Sometimes, it can also be unintentional due to a lack of proper knowledge on the subject.  

🤷‍♀️ What is an example of greenwashing?

A general example of greenwashing is that many motor brands have started advertising their brand as eco-friendly with the initiation of electric vehicles (EV). Still, they produce fuel-based cars more than EVs, which doesn’t support their claim of being an environmentally-friendly company. 

👩‍💻 Who invented the term ‘greenwashing’?

In one of his essays, Jay Westervelt, an environmentalist, invented the term greenwashing in 1986. 

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