The meticulous advertising brands adopt to appear environmentally conscious without changing the ecological impact of their products or manufacturing process.
It’s the idea that a brand can use loaded and completely unregulated terms to appeal to the moral compass of customers such as:
And it works!
I definitely feel a lot better using a bioplastic cup. Even though they are just as polluting as plastic until broken down in an industrial composting facility. The green packaging and picture of a leaf must mean they are doing something for the environment, right? And how about vegan leather. What a creative name for PLASTIC!
Greenwashing was born from the growing concern citizens from developed countries have for the environment.
We saw the effects of climate change in events such as the 2019 bushfire crisis, and there is a growing public consensus that we have a duty to rapidly reduce emissions. This coincides with activism trends that have led companies and governments to realise they can majorly profit or grow support for themselves if they appear to be environmentally friendly.
In short, navigating the supermarket aisle as a conscious consumer is a fucking challenge. You are looking for products with:
- No palm oil
- No testing on animals
- Safe manufacturing processes
- FairTrade certifications
- Carbon neutrality
The list goes on. Yet, these claims often do not align with each other. This nightmare is evidence that putting all the responsibility on individuals to live sustainably is unjust and unrealistic. People like us need to hold these companies and our government accountable for their destruction of the environment, and scrutinise their contributions to the cause. You can do this in so many ways: attend rallies, get in contact with your local MP, or sign a petition or two to support community groups pressuring companies to take legitimate action. Most importantly, don’t let the fact you have not subscribed to greenwashed environmental practices, like using keep cups, or bulk buying wholefoods, stop you from contributing to systemic change.
“Putting all the responsibility on individuals to live sustainably is unjust and unrealistic."
It is not okay that we live in a world where multinational fossil fuel corporations, such as BP, can greenwash us into believing they have an environmental conscience. Did you know BP crafted the term ‘carbon footprint’ in the early 2000’s? It was part of a strategic PR campaign that released a carbon footprint calculator to encourage individuals to calculate their own environmental impact. If BP used the calculator themselves, they might find the 3.7 million barrels of oil they extract per day (2018) contributes infinitely more to the climate crisis than an individual’s meat consumption, or their half-hour drive to work.
What’s more, such schemes reflect our own government, who time and time again, use accounting tricks to ‘greenwash’ Australia’s contribution to global emissions targets, without taking the necessary measures towards preventing climate change. We saw this when the government originally weaseled its way into using ‘carryover credits’ from the Kyoto protocol to account for some of their contribution to the Paris Climate Agreement. And then later, when they denounced this idea, they branded this as a big win for environmental targets. It’s like fessing up to cheating on a test, and assuming you passed, because you have now renounced the need to cheat. We must go further than choosing recycled toilet paper wrapped in plastic! We must uproot the system and no longer fall for manipulative corporate schemes. Are you really making a difference? Or just spending more money? The only way to really tell, is to question everything you do.