The term Greenwashing could be translated into English as "greenwashing", although this translation does not give us many clues as to what it means. Greenwashing is used to define marketing strategies carried out by some companies with the aim of giving an image of sustainability, but which in reality are more of a facelift than a reality.
The boundaries between truth and falsehood in marketing and advertising have always been, and will always be, a very fine and transparent line that draws on each country's consumer and trade legislation and its legal loopholes.
As in journalism, marketing often uses technicalities and small variations of meaning to avoid getting caught with the law, but at the same time tocaptivate customers with exaggerations or miraculous promises that will not be fulfilled. In other words, if a product promises to make wrinkles disappear completely and someone, after trying it, discovers that this is not the case, they could sue the company for misleading advertising and the company would be in trouble. But if on the package or in some section of the advertisement it is explained that the product must be used for 40 years without stopping to notice its effects, the company would have its back covered. This is a very exaggerated example, but it helps us to understand greenwashing.
The same thing that we have just described happens with sustainability. In recent decades, when the effects of global warming and the lack of resources have begun to be evident and tangible all over the world (they already were in the most economically disadvantaged areas) , a more real concern has arisen among the population to take care of the planet: reducingCO2 emissions, eliminating additives and fertilisers from food, reducing the speed of consumption, opting for local products, etc.
These are some basic and simple actions that everyone can implement in their lives and which are known to have a positive impact on the environment.
Así, los consumidores han variado ligeramente sus preferencias a la hora de consumir, y las marcas se han visto obligadas a generar un cambio para ganar ese nuevo público más concienciado. El problema comienza cuando roza la parte económica. Si a una empresa le preguntas ¿quieres ser más sostenible y respetuosa con el medioambiente? te dirá que sí casi con total seguridad. Pero si a continuación añades ¿estáis dispuestos a perder parte de vuestros beneficios en investigación, en productos de mayor calidad, biológicos, en producir en industrias en occidente, etc? entonces cuesta decir que sí. Es decir, que nos encontramos con un panorama donde los clientes demandan una acción y unos valores que las empresas, en mayor o menor medida, no están dispuestas a cumplir por la pérdida de beneficios, inversión en I+D, cambios internos y un sinfín de variaciones que tendrían que llevar a cabo para adaptarse a esa nueva demanda. ¿Cuál es el resultado? Fingir que se han sumado al carro de la sosteni
Examples of greenwashing:
Carrying out a greenwashing campaign is simple: you just have to avoid lying. Carrying out a small action with an environmentalist tinge is usually enough to give the impression that the company has renovated every last tile to be more sustainable.
Of course, the fact that these practices work is the fault of the person who believes them. Since they cannot lie (for obvious reasons, although it sometimes happens), it is possible to know to what extent this information is true or how much of the company's total is covered.
For example, one Spanish confectionery company got the media to talk about its investment in more sustainable transport when, out of a total fleet of around 200 trucks, only two had opted for a different fuel.
Similarly, it is not uncommon for fast-fashion clothing brands to release a line made from more sustainable materials, such as recycled plastic, recycled polyester, lyocell and substitutes, when the vast majority of their production is still harmful to the planet and damaging to the workers who make it.
Another similar case is that of waste bins that have different compartments for recycling, but if we pay attention, we will see that there is only one bag underneath to collect all the waste.
The solution to end greenwashing
The reality is that as consumers there is little we can really do to put an end to greenwashing other than to be aware of these scams and not fall into them. The problem is that it requires an economic effort, as buying a product made with good quality materials and environmentally friendly processes is more expensive. It also requires a personal effort, in terms of information and concern about causes that at first glance do not seem to affect us directly. And, of course, spending time on all this and resisting the ease of taking the first product we find instead of investigating its origins, its components, how it is made, etc.
The word traceability is a term that is used a lot in terms of sustainability. It consists of tracing the path that a product has taken from the first material extracted from the Earth until it reaches our hands in the opposite direction. The problem with traceability, apart from the lack of motivation of many consumers, is that companies do not always provide this information, relying above all on subcontracting or on these Greenwashing campaigns themselves.