Really Give Them Something to Talk About

Green washing, the practice of boasting about sustainable practices that are either exaggerated or non-existent with the hopes of gaining conscious consumers, is a problem. However, businesses should not let the fear of being accused of green washing deter it from talking about its sustainable initiatives.

Quite a few companies have been criticized for green washed marketing, including Exxon Mobile, BP, H&M and Walmart, just to name a few. Green washing is often achieved by taking a small sustainable initiative and exaggerating upon it to appeal to consumers who want responsibly produced products.

As you can see in the Walmart ad below, the marketer has taken a great practice such as recycling, which can be applied to many areas of business, applied it to one product, and then proceeded to claim that they have, “Budget friendly prices. Earth friendly products.”

If one was to survey Wal-Mart’s product offering to gage how many of the products were actually “Earth-friendly,” they would probably not find as many products as the commercial may lead a consumer to believe. Marketers that prey on their targeted consumer’s environmental and social consciousness such as this one, scare brands that are making genuine strides toward smarter, more sustainable business practices out of talking about those strides for fear of condemnation.

This is a problem. Companies, such as Tom’s, Patagonia, North Face and even Coca-Cola that are truly attempting to make their brand more responsible internally and externally, and they should be able to proudly share their efforts with their consumers without fear of being labeled as green washers.

In a 45 second clip on Patagonia’s YouTube channel, Rick Ridgeway VP of Environmental Initiatives talks about a partnership between Patagonia and Ebay that encourages consumers to shop responsibly, by purchasing quality made items and putting them back into the market.

When a company practices sustainability rather than just marketing it, it tends to be infused throughout the company. When one understands the benefits of using minimal resources (environmental, monetary, etc.), living as a community and encouraging others to do the same, talking about it tends to be genuine.


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