Greenwashing: Marketing and branding, authentically.

A company’s marketing and branding are so much more than just, well, marketing and branding. Everything your company emits represents it entirely. So be careful with how you choose to present yourself. 
BRACT Team
September 13, 2021
Greenwashing: Marketing and branding, authentically.

Let’s talk about Greenwashing. 

As defined by Business News Daily, “Greenwashing is when a company or organization spends more time and money on marketing themselves as environmentally friendly than on minimizing their environmental impact. It is a deceitful advertising gimmick intended to mislead consumers who prefer to buy goods and services from environmentally conscious brands.” 

In a perfect world every company would be completely honest and authentic about their views and beliefs. And what’s more? They would act upon these beliefs accordingly. A company must be presented as and remain authentic, genuine and purposeful from the beginning. One strike and you’re out (in this industry, at least). Mean what you say, and do exactly what you promise to do. 

What does greenwashing say about humans from a societal point of view? 

People, as a society, want to do the bare minimum to help, whether it be rounding up at the grocery store to help plant more trees, or donating clothes instead of throwing them in the garbage. 

But what exactly does it say about us when we can’t even be certain whether a company is truly environmentally aware/conscious? Are we just believing them because we don’t actually care about the planet, and we just want to feel better about our actions? Or do we genuinely believe that the information we see in their advertisements is completely true? 

Either way, it’s unclear when fact-checking became an afterthought, but it should now be an unconscious habit. Especially with so many fake sources on the internet, how do we know who to trust? 

Marketing, Branding and Greenwashing. Oh my!

Because your brand is who you are, what you do and why you do it, if your entire company is based on a falsity, your business will be tarnished from the inside out. 

When you release any type of marketing campaigns for your company, you are advertising directly to your consumers. If you share empty promises and false claims, that's how you will be remembered forever. 

Greenwashing is a marketing tactic that is strictly skin-deep with no actual backup evidence proving the company’s claims. 

So, how can new companies who want to do good utilize marketing to get the truth across? 

Start with going the extra mile (sounds tedious, we know). Greenwashing is a narrow term that umbrellas many societal issues. One of these being ethical labor conditions. The topic of ethical and moral work conditions is a hot one. A new company could benefit, (and profit, too!) from being a company that takes pride in ensuring that their employees are treated and paid well. 

Take an issue that is evident in today’s society, reverse it and you will see a significant alteration in how the future is expected to play out. 

No matter what issue you decide to try and rectify, your initial purpose should include compassion and kindness, and it should be felt in everything your company produces. 

Staying Woke.

Being ‘woke’ is not a generational concept, it was originally coined to refer to a movement that fights against racism. But its defintion has since been expanded to spread awareness regarding several social injustice and environmentally conscious issues. 

So, why is this important? 

The largest significance of ‘woke culture’ is the responsibility taken by a society that didn’t create the problem. The younger generation was born into a depleting environment, prevalent racial issues and a growing poverty rate. Though not directly caused, created or worsened by our existence, we, as a generation, have taken the most crucial actions to try and reverse what we were bestowed with. This is essentially ‘staying woke’. 

We didn’t create the problems, but we see that they exist, and we know that we are the only pliable solution, so we act. 

Get a load of this!

The irony of oil companies is the fact that so many have made efforts to convince the public that they are “ going green”, for lack of better terminology. As one of the largest contributors to pollution and wildlife endangerment (see: Gulf of Mexico oil spill, 2010), one would assume that they would make more of an effort to avoid harming the earth any more than they already have. Unfortunately, this is impossible due to the nature of the industry.

 No matter how ‘eco-friendly’ or ‘green’ the companies try to pretend they are, their entire existence is helping the earth to die. This fact will never cancel out their pretend efforts to try and rectify the problems they’ve caused. As an example, Chevron, one of the leading oil companies in the world, made several ‘promises’ to only better the places in which they drilled. One of these promises included improving the quality of ‘health, education and welfare’ (Cherry & Sneirson, 2012). 

These are all great things to promise improvement upon. However, the company has nothing to do with these aspects. So perhaps promising not to leak oil into the ocean and obliterate the local wildlife would be more suitable for the countries they choose to drill in. 

Everlane is a company aiming toward creating sustainable and ethical clothing using complete transparency with their consumers. However, in recent months, news has been leaked about racist and hateful behavior within the workplace. Along the lines of greenwashing, this company markets itself as one that believes in ethical and fair working environments. However, their audience has been deceived by their advertisements and branding. Ultimately the truth came out via their own employees. If Everlane claims to be pro-ethical treatments, wages and fashion, why do they fall short when it comes to their very own? 

There’s hope after all. 

Zara has faced a ton of criticism for its bad labor practices, unethical working conditions and questionable fashion production. Fortunately for the company, things have lightened up for them due to the introduction of their more sustainable collection released every season. Though it’s not perfect, they have taken a step in the right direction in terms of sustainability. In a world where there is constant pressure to do everything 100% correctly, Zara has taken a small step toward bettering their brand and the Earth, simultaneously. While they’re not perfect, and nor do they claim to be, they have set an example for other brands like their own to make an effort in becoming more sustainable and allowing their customers to do good in the world, too. 

However you decide to position your brand on the market, act as if this is something that you will be gluing to your company name, and once dried, cannot be removed. Our recommendation to you is to choose the path of kindness. You can never go wrong if you’re kind. More than this, be authentic. If you’re real with your consumers, they will be forever loyal to you. And as we all know, it’s easier to keep loyal customers than to falsely acquire new ones.

Everyone has to do what's best for them without judging others. This is true compassion. 

However you decide to position your brand on the market, act as if this is something that you will be gluing to your company name, and once dried, cannot be removed. Our recommendation to you is to choose the path of kindness. You can never go wrong if you’re kind. More than this, be authentic. If you’re real with your consumers, they will be forever loyal to you. And as we all know, it’s easier to keep loyal customers than to falsely acquire new ones.

You can’t please everyone. 

If a brand doesn’t want to change, they don’t have to. Sure, becoming more sustainable will eventually lead to a better future. But if a company does not want to change and become more eco-friendly, then that is precisely their prerogative. 

It’s important to do exactly what’s best for you and your company. 

If you do decide to make the switch, keep in mind that it is unlikely that your choices will be sufficient for everyone. So again, do what works best for you. 

In psychology, it’s been found that pressuring or negatively incentivizing someone to do something often has the opposite effect of the intended one (Ablon, 2018). If you want something to be done, you must assist them and give inspiration, and eventually let them come up with a reason to do it on their own. Psychology 101.  

If people pressure companies to become more sustainable, it will end up backfiring. Instead, lightly encouraging it without judgement is the best way to go. That being said, every business has a right to operate in the way it wishes to. Go green, go blue, whatever you choose. Just do it authentically. 

Here’s how we can help.

We understand that it can be extremely difficult to make a switch to a more sustainable business model. So, we’ve curated a list to help you make the change. Also, don’t be afraid to start small and make your way to the top. Rome wasn’t built in a…. You get the point. 

  1. Eco-friendly website servers. (Use https://www.websitecarbon.com to calculate your website’s carbon usage, and then make the switch to a greener server).
  2. More eco-friendly furniture in the office, or buy furniture second hand. (Btw, did you know that Jeff Bezos furnished his first office for Amazon with furniture he  found on the street?! Great way to save money as well!)
  3. Offer for employees to work from home. Less driving, less pollution. Less pollution, more beaches. More beaches, more fun. :)
  4. Reduce the amount of paper used around the office. Go completely digital. 
  5. Reduce the amount of small talk. Less small talk, less time spent in the office. Less time spent in the office, fewer coworkers you have to see. Oops, we mean 'lower electricity bill'.
  6. Reduce your consumption of plastic in the office. Less plastic, more fish in the sea. More fish in the sea, more smoked salmon for your bagel. (Was that too far?)

Even though saving the planet is a big deal, it’s best not to make it seem that way. Casually incorporate little things everywhere that, overall, make a difference in the long run. 

Going back to the psychological aspect of this topic, it’s been found that by allowing someone to do something themselves, rather than forcing them to, gives them a true sense of accomplishment.

Citations: 

Abas Mirzaei Senior Lecturer - Branding. (2020, November 27). Where 'woke' came from and why marketers should think twice before jumping on the social activism bandwagon. Retrieved June 27, 2021, from https://theconversation.com/where-woke-came-from-and-why-marketers-should-think-twice-before-jumping-on-the-social-activism-bandwagon-122713

Cherry, M. A., & Sneirson, J. F. (2012, January 1). Chevron, Greenwashing, and the Myth of “Green Oil Companies”. Chevron, Greenwashing, and the Myth of “Green Oil Companies”.

Corcione, A. (2020, January 20). What is greenwashing? Retrieved June 27, 2021, from https://www.businessnewsdaily.com/10946-greenwashing.html

Fernandez, C. (2016, September 21). What we know About ZARA'S first Sustainable collection. Retrieved June 27, 2021, from https://fashionista.com/2016/09/zara-sustainable-collection-join-life

How Everlane failed its promise of radical transparency. (2020, August 30). Retrieved June 27, 2021, from https://www.thelifestyle-files.com/is-everlane-really-ethical/