“Greenwash is the spanner in the works that could sabotage the whole environmental movement within business,’ says the wonderfully named Solitaire Townsend in a recent Guardian article on Greenwash.
Townsend knows more about greenwash than most, being the chief exec of the Futerra consultancy group, publishers of the Greenwash Guide. “Greenwash means that confidence in green advertising is at an all-time low, and if consumers can’t believe the claims they won’t buy the products and the good will lose along with the bad.”
Greenwash, the trumpeting of environmental credentials in advertising, is more pervasive than ever. So, here are the Greenwash Guide’s ten signs to look out for, slightly embellished on my part:
1. Fluffy language – ‘eco’ has become a marketing magic word, like ‘new!’ or ‘free’. ‘Environmentally friendly’, ‘green’, ‘low-CO2, ‘tread lightly’ and ‘save the planet’ are all expressions on the verge of meaningless among the ad-men.
2. Green products from a dirty company – sustainability cannot be applied to one product among many. Let’s have company-wide principle before the bragging starts please.
3. Suggestive imagery – flowers do not bloom from tailpipes. Look out for pictures of the earth, hippies, rainbows, polar bears and the colour green.
4. Irrelevant claims – small gestures championed as big ones. Did you just do it for the advert? Hmm…
5. Best in class – being the best of a bad lot doesn’t make you good.
6. Lack of credibility – some industries just can’t be green. Oil companies and airlines spring to mind.
7. Jargon – dazzling the consumer with science and technical detail.
8. Imaginary friends – endorsements or sticking a conservation logo somewhere on your ad because you made a donation recently
9. Proof – substantiate your claims
10. Outright lies – the most offensive kind of greenwash.