From a business perspective, what are the dangers of “greenwashing”? If you were a marketing executive, would you have a policy against “greenwashing”? Why or why not?
If you were a marketing executive in a corporation that was trying to ‘look green’ so as to attract more business, you would probably try to deceive potential customers by pretending that your product or service has taken environmental or green issues into consideration in its offer. In fact, your company might in reality be socially irresponsible but aiming to cover this up to attract trade.
There are many environmentally destructive multinationals that try to preserve their markets and expand their power by pretending to be eco friendly.
If you were a marketing executive you might feel it was in your company’s interests to be in line with modern thinking so that young markets in particular would think you were cool. You might try to show in your advertisements that your company is environmentally conscious. You might also cover your mission statement and media releases with loose, vague, green-sounding soundbites that are difficult to quantify. The result of this would be that ordinary consumers would find it hard to see a difference between those corporations genuinely dedicated to improving the environment and those that were ‘washing’ their true operations under a blanket of green-sounding superficial language.
Some marketing executives go even further and will ravage an environment for its minerals while trying to sell it locally through an environmental initiative, such as a well or playground, while the true business is actually polluting or destructive.
Others use targeted advertising or a public relations campaign to exaggerate an eco friendly initiative so as to divert public scrutiny from the real environmental damage caused and by covering up or moving dangerous residues somewhere else. Many spend more money shouting in the media about their green aspirations than on actual initiatives.
A ruthless marketing executive might show off about corporate green commitments while all the time secretly lobbying against environmental laws. He might also try to change public perception, in order to increase business volume, when actually forced to alter a product, clear up after its pollution or protect endangered environments. He could do this by pushing out PR campaigns to make the company clear up look as if it was their own idea and undertaken voluntarily.
However, many corporations are reviewing their 'greenwashing' activities. Trying to fool modern day consumers presents dangers for companies. Consumers are much more likely to be using IT gadgets these days and have far higher access to quality information and background stories. In the social digital world people can group together to lobby globally and effectively and can thus call out eco fraudsters and cheats and get the word out. This could mean some corporations falling out of favour and looking very dated and dubious. Many companies are deciding that 'greenwashing' in a more enlightened world is not worth the risk
Today’s customer is increasingly making decisions after considering the environmental fall-outs of said decisions. So he eats organic food, his kids play with lead-free toys, he checks for renewable fuel options and proudly carries a cotton bag and artificial leather wallet for shopping.
So everyone should be happy, right? But many big companies are not. The consumer is ready to pay a little extra for his greener choice. So why are the companies not happy? Companies require a lot of time, energy and machinery to put an environmentally-friendly version of any product on the market. There is uncertainty about the demand for this version, hence the lack of happiness.
So a significant number of companies today are resorting to “greenwashing.” They make false, unsupported or misleading claims about the environmental benefits of their products.
As a marketing executive, what should my stand be? I should be against the “greenwashing” policy for the following reasons:
- Companies resorting to “greenwashing” are eventually caught. This causes irreparable damage to the reputation of the company. It will be a blot on my CV too.
- Environmental protection acts in many countries put in place rigorous penalties and prosecute violation of norms and/or misleading claims.
Consumers today want to be environmentally-friendly, empowered, and healthy, and companies should respect that. I would like to work for a company that strives to achieve a real, measurable, and sustainable green component.