Types of greenwashing
People are often reluctant to buy green products as they are suspicious of corporate environmental claims. When companies publicize how great their green credentials are, people are suspicious that the companies must be hiding something. Not only are consumers suspicious of a company’s claims, the threat of legal action might also loom large. There is a market pressure to appear green as a result of which instances of greenwashing have gone up considerably over the years. Given below are types of greenwashing that businesses are guilty of.
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Sometimes, products emphasize one trait that appears to be green but fail to address the full impact of the product. For instance, an office can claim to be energy-efficient but is not mindful of the materials it uses. It might use recycled paper but it might not address issues such as water emissions and air emissions. Such information or rather gaps in them, cannot be checked by customers easily.
Some products make claims to be green that are so poorly defined that their real meaning might be misunderstood by the target audience. Products are often called ‘naturally derived’. Now ‘naturally derived’ means coming from nature and should not have any extra chemicals or other substances added, but that is not always the case. Consumers would not call a product ‘natural’ or ‘naturally derived’ if they contain synthetic and chemically-processed ingredients.
Environmental claims can also be irrelevant. The claim may be truthful but it might be unimportant for consumers who want to make a difference with their purchase. Such claims also distract consumers from the real impact. For instance, cigarettes can claim to be organic and state that they have not used chemicals in the production of tobacco, but that only serves to distract customers from the fact that smoking is extremely harmful for their health.
This is another factor that influences greenwashing. Organizational behavior stands in the way of strategic change and there can be a lag that occurs between the declaration of green intent and its implementation. This can also be caused by ineffective communication within a firm. When internal communications are difficult, thy stand in the way of innovation. Businesses with ineffective communication between their marketing and product development departments might resort to greenwashing. Marketers might focus on benefits by not understanding the reality of a product. Poor knowledge sharing within a company can also lead to greenwashing.
Some labels on products do not give correct information on its environmental credentials. Some products carry labels that state that they are CFC-free. There is basically no need for such labels as all products are required to be CFC-free by law. Often labels carry no proof and their claims cannot be substantiated by a reliable third-party. Some tissues claim to contain recycled content but such claims are not substantiated by easily accessible information. Use of such broad labels often result in greenwashing.