It’s common knowledge now that green is the new black, and companies the world over are clamouring to get on that particular band wagon, claiming to be the greenest or the cleanest.

In the process however, some people and companies have stepped out of reality, and have used media and budget to promote themselves and the businesses as being green, instead of using the budget to actually become green. A quick online search will come up with a definition like this:

“Green washing is when a company, government or other group promotes green-based environmental initiatives or images but actually operates in a way that is damaging to the environment or in an opposite manner to the goal of the announced initiatives.”









There are many ways that greenwashing can take place, and we are going to look at a few of them.

Some companies like to simply state that they are green and environmentally conscious, but don’t provide any proof of such. For example, to claim that a certain percentage of a product is recycled or upcycled, then providing no evidence of such whatsoever.

Another favourite of greenwashers are the claims that, while being honest, are of little relevance to the situation at hand. For example, saying that a product is CFC – free in a country that already has CFC’s totally banned is totally irrelevant.

Some people like to compare their products to others in a bid to appear better and a better option, and at the same time detracting from the fallibility of their own product. McDonalds, for example, has started using biofuel made from their leftover grease to run its fleet of trucks. This is amazing, but let’s not forget that McDonalds bases its entire concept around disposable packaging.

Health products are often also guilty, using words like ‘herbal’ and organic in their packaging, yet the products still contain. harmful synthetic chemicals, such as sodium laureth sulfate and diazolidinyl urea.

Other companies simply use misleading ‘green’ images and words in their packaging, in a greenwashing bid to appear eco-friendly. This is probably the most common greenwashing trick out there, and while the companies are not really doing anything illegal, they are trying to subtly come across as something they are not. Always read the label, especially if there are words like Eco or Bio in the packaging.

Finally, some companies simply lie like Pinocchio about their products in a desperate bid to appear eco-conscious. Sometimes they get caught out, sometimes they don’t, but it is rife in South Africa and around the world.


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