The Blue & Gray Press

The University of Mary Washington Student Newspaper

Corporate “greenwashing” is unethical

3 min read

Companies mislead consumers about the eco-friendliness of products like this one to make money. | @brian_yuri on Unsplash


Staff Writer

Companies attract customers to purchase “eco-friendly” options when the items are not as environmentally friendly as they seem. It’s called “greenwashing.”

Greenwashing is when a company or organization lies to their consumers about environmental practices to seem more environmentally friendly. This is a common marketing tactic.

Greenwashing allows companies to take advantage of people at the expense of the environment. It is morally and ethically wrong for companies to greenwash. Greenwashing should not exist, but since it does consumers should be educated on greenwashing.

“Environmentalist Jay Westerveld coined the term “greenwashing” in 1986 in a critical essay,” said Business News Daily. There has been an increase in greenwashing in more recent years.

The New York Times reports that  a study done by Terra Choice shows “95 percent of the products marketed as eco-friendly had committed at least one of what it called the ‘seven sins’ of greenwashing.” The seven sins range from intentionally using weak data to creating fake certifications.

Greenwashing harms consumers who are trying to be environmentally conscious with their purchases. This form of marketing is easy to fall for and not the fault of the consumer. Consumers should be able to purchase goods that are marketed as eco-friendly without having to inspect the legitimacy.

Greenwashing is so common because over half of consumers are willing to spend more if the company is environmentally friendly. Companies take advantage of people’s desire to help the planet. This harmful marketing tactic has no benefits, and should be stopped.

It is important to understand greenwashing so people can become better consumers and support businesses that actually help the environment. This marketing ploy plays into consumers’ want to be environmentally conscious and manipulates them. 

In recent years greenwashing has been used by many companies. In 2017, Walmart paid $1 million to settle a greenwashing claim that their plastics were environmentally friendly, according to Business News Daily. The Consumerist reports Kauai Coffee marketed their single-use coffee pods as “100% compostable” when the pods could only be composted in industrial facilities and not backyard composts. 

Greenwashing has to be understood to avoid purchasing greenwashing goods. To avoid falling for greenwashing, consumers should become educated to create a space for actually environmentally friendly products. Greenwashing has negatively impacted the steps taken to be more eco-friendly and should be eliminated from marketing. 

“Shop locally if you can, aim to look for fair trade stores, and if you are at a big store do your research on the company,” said senior environmental science major Allison Grant.

Before buying an item that markets itself to be environmentally friendly, research the brand. Researching the product and company ensures that the company’s eco policies are actually beneficial and true. Looking at the ingredients list and checking for authentic certifications is another way to prevent greenwashing. If possible, shopping at fair trade markets is also a way to prevent greenwashing. It is important to understand that greenwashing should not exist but is not the fault of the consumer but its effect can be minimized by educated consumers.

Greenwashing is a marketing ploy that many people fall for. Consumers that want to participate in environmentally friendly consumption should be able to do so without second-guessing if the product is truly eco-friendly. Greenwashing is morally and ethically wrong and should not exist.

Follow me on Twitter