Greenwashing by Companies: Against Business Ethics

Pages: 5 (1282 words) Published: May 23, 2013
Increasingly companies’ marketing and public relations activities, and their reports are emphasizing their environmental and social activities and aspirations. A number of commentators claim this is “greenwashing”. Discuss, referring to business ethics.

Today’s society is becoming more and more aware of the effects it has on nature from its own presence. Because of this, companies are increasingly trying to promote their operations or products as environmentally friendly or green but in truth it may cause damage to the environment. This is commonly known as 'Greenwashing'. Using the 'Greenwash' approach regularly tests the gap between corporate social responsibility claims and actual practise (Font, et al., 2012). People believe that organisations need to define their roles in society and apply social and ethical standards to their business (Lindgreen & Swaen, 2010). In other words, every company should demonstrate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) yet studies are showing a large percentage of environmental claims either mislead or deceive the public (Elizabeth, 2010), meaning they are not really demonstrating CSR at all.

Forms of Greenwashing come in many different forms, such as reports, advertising, packaging, and campaigns. . The question is how do companies achieve this greenwashing effect? Companies attempt to 'whitewash' consumers through false statements or by using biased presentations of data. Nowadays when companies announce a new product or service, consumers are Greenwashed by making subtle use of specific colours, images and fonts with a seemingly genuine storyline to do with the environment or nature. According to Elizabeth (2010), businesses will consistently make claims that their products are benefiting consumers and the environment, usually by placing all marketing emphasis to make it seem environmentally friendly or green. For instance, PepsiCo in 2012 released a new product called 'Pepsi Next' which claims to be 'naturally sweetened'. This fact may be true, however the marketing campaign does not focus on all the additional chemicals and energy used to make the drink. By doing this consumer now believe that it is a good, natural product. This is an example of a greenwashing sin, identified by TerraChoice Environmental Marketing (2010).

When companies decide to market in a Greenwash manner there are usually hidden trade-offs. Much like above, companies may promote a new product that is greener and better for the environment than previous products they've sold. However making the new 'greener' product may have a worse effect on the environment as making it may use more energy or pollution to the environment (Norman & Schneider, 2011). Similarly, businesses may make unsupported, inaccurate or vague environmental claims that cannot be backed up with hard evidence, another Greenwashing sin, identified by TerraChoice Environmental Marketing (2010).

Companies may also claim that their product is organic or completely natural of which consumers may believe because lack of or limited knowledge of the product. Furthermore, companies trying to Greenwash a product often flood customers with irrelevant information, making a product seem more natural, organic or better for sustaining the environment (TerraChoice Environmental Marketing, 2010). As an example, packaging may have labels saying 'CFC-Free'. CFC is Chlorofluorocarbon and has been illegal for years (Norman & Schneider, 2011).

Consumers place trust in a company when making a decision to purchase their product. It is a company's corporate social responsibility to fulfil this trust and provide the consumer with a trustworthy, reliable product. When using a Greenwash approach, organisations mislead buyers which is a prime example of unethical business behaviour. Business ethics is known as the code of moral principle and values that governs the behaviour of an organisation with respect to what is right or wrong. (Samson...

Bibliography: Australian Competition & Consumer Commision, 2011. Green Marketing and the Australian Consumer Law, Canberra, Australian Capital Territory: s.n.
Elizabeth, K., 2010. Greenwashing Deluge: Who Will Rise above the Waters of Deceptive Advertising. University of Miami Law Review, Volume 64, pp. 1354,1357,1360,1361.
Font, X. et al., 2012. Corporate Social Responsibility: The disclosure - performance gap. Tourism Management, 33(6).
Lindgreen, A. & Swaen, V., 2010. Corporate Social Responsibility. International Journal of Management Reviews, 12(1), pp. 1-7.
Marketing, T. C. E., 2010. The Sins of Greenwashing Home and Family Edition, s.l.: s.n.
Norman, E. & Schneider, M., 2011. Business Ethics for Dummies. Indianapolis, Indiana: Wiley Publishing.
Samson, D. & Daft, R. L., 2012. Fundamentals of Management: Fourth Asia Pacific Edition. 4th ed. Orlando, Florida: Dryden Press.
TerraChoice Environmental Marketing (2010) The Sins of Greenwashing: Home and Family Edition, <>
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