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What is Greenwashing?

 , updated on May 03, 2017
Greenwashing is a deceptive marketing practice that suggests that a product or firm is environmentally friendly when it is not.
In some cases, companies that have extremely poor environmental records make the most aggressive greenwashing claims. For example, they may adopt green slogans and visual symbols meant to distract from their actions as a firm.
Greenwashing also has many grey areas such as firms that publicize minor steps to be more environmentally friendly. Firms that make major strides to reduce pollution may also be accused of greenwashing if their overall impact on the environment is highly negative.
Many jurisdictions have begun to regulate green claims in marketing in various ways. There are ways to discourage greenwashing such as disallowing vague claims of environmental friendliness and only allowing claims that are specifically backed up by data. However, firms may get around this by pointing to statistically insignificant examples of something they did that was green.
Overview: Greenwashing
DefinitionA deceptive marketing practice that suggests that a product or firm is environmentally friendly when it is not.
ExamplesUse of the color green on products.
Vague green slogans and visual symbols.
Green brand names for products that damage the environment.
Highlighting actions or donations that are insignificant compared to the overall damage generated by a firm's activities.
NotesGreenwashing has many grey areas such as firms that publicize meaningful actions in an industry that is a heavy polluter.
It can be difficult to regulate greenwashing because governments lack standard means of evaluating the environmental impact of a firm or product. Ideally, each firm would have an environmental rating that is required to be published with any green claims.
Related ConceptsSustainable Design
Promotion Strategy
Quality Of Life
Precautionary Principle


This is the complete list of articles we have written about sustainability.
Adaptive Reuse
Broken Window Fallacy
Carbon Concrete
Cascading Failure
Circular Economy
CO2 Per Capita
Coal Power
Comparative Risk
Creeping Normality
Cultural Lag
Deep Water Cooling
Disaster Preparedness
District Heating
Do No Harm
Do Nothing Farming
Dollar Voting
Economic Bad
Electric Boat
Embodied Energy
Environmental Issues
Environmental Justice
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Existential Risk
Farm Robots
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Global Change
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Green Facade
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Happiness Index
High-Speed Rail
Human Scale
Jevons Paradox
Keyhole Garden
Land Footprint
Light Pollution
Living Street
Market Failure
Missing Market
Moral Hazard
Natural Capital
Natural Resources
Nearly Car Free
Noise Pollution
Ocean Plastic Cleanup
Outside Context Problem
Passive Design
Point Of No Return
Precautionary Principle
Product Transparency
Quality Of Life
Race To The Bottom
Rainwater Harvesting
Resilient Cities
Safety By Design
Slow Design
Slow Movement
Smart Glass
Social Responsibility
Soft Engineering
Sunlight Transport
Sustainable Design
Sustainable Economics
Sustainable Lighting
Sustainable Materials
Tactical Urbanism
Urban Density
Urban Design
Urban Heat Island
Waste Is Food
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