Greenwashing was coined by suburban NY environmentalist Jay Westerveld in 1986, in an essay regarding the hotel industry's practice of placing green placards in each room, promoting reuse of guest-towels, ostensibly to "save the environment". Westerveld noted that, in most cases, little or no effort toward waste recycling was being implemented by these institutions, due in part to the lack of cost-cutting affected by such practice. Westerveld opined that the actual objective of this "green campaign" on the part of many hoteliers was, in fact, profit increase. Westerveld hence monikered this and other outwardly environmentally-conscientious acts with a greater, underlying purpose of profit increase as greenwashing.
The term is generally used when significantly more money or time has been spent advertising being green (that is, operating with consideration for the environment), rather than spending resources on environmentally sound practices. This is often portrayed by changing the name or label of a product, to give the feeling of nature, for example putting an image of a forest on a bottle containing harmful chemicals. Environmentalists often use greenwashing to describe the actions of energy companies, which are traditionally the largest polluters.
Greenwash (a portmanteau of green and whitewash) is a term used to describe the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly, such as by presenting cost cuts as reductions in use of resources. It is a deceptive use of green PR or green marketing. The term green sheen has similarly been used to describe organizations that attempt to show that they are adopting practices beneficial to the environment.
- Clegg, Brian. 2009. Eco-logic: Cutting Through the Greenwash: Truth, Lies and Saving the Planet. London: Eden Project. ISBN 9781905811250.
- Greer, Jed, and Kenny Bruno. 1996. Greenwash: The Reality Behind Corporate Environmentalism. Penang, Malaysia: Third World Network. ISBN 9839747169.
- Lubbers, Eveline. 2002. Battling Big Business: Countering Greenwash, Infiltration, and Other Forms of Corporate Bullying. Monroe, ME: Common Courage Press. ISBN 1567512240
- Tokar, Brian. 1997. Earth for Sale: Reclaiming Ecology in the Age of Corporate Greenwash. Boston: South End Press. ISBN 0896085589.
- How Greenwashing Works at HowStuffWorks
- Tools Of Greenwashing: Adverts - Article from The Unsuitablog, an anti-greenwashing blog
- Beware of Greenwashing: Not All Environmental Claims are Meaningful - How to avoid being fooled
- Questioning "corporate social responsibility" - Greenwashing article from London's Southern OnTrack magazine
- Greenwashing in Popular Culture and Art
- Are You Being Greenwashed?-the reality of Greenwashing in our society, documentary presented by George Monbiot.
- Turn Up The Heat - Greenwashing critique by George Monbiot
- What is Greenwashing, and Why is it a Problem?"
- FOOTSIE 100 Green Winners and Green Washers Survey
- DuPont and Greenwash "An Examination of the Limits to DuPont's 'Sustainability' Commitments" by United Steelworkers Union 11/03/07
- Greenwashing and the corporate mind.
Norway's consumer ombudsman has targeted automakers who claim that their cars are "green", "clean" or "environmentally friendly" with some of the world's strictest advertising guidelines. Consumer Ombudsman official Bente Øverli said: "Cars cannot do anything good for the environment except less damage than others." Manufacturers risk fines if they fail to drop the words. Øverli said she did not know of other countries going so far in cracking down on cars and the environment. 
In addition, the political term "linguistic detoxification" is used by some environmentalists to describe when, through legislation or other government action, the definitions of toxicity for certain substances are changed, or the name of the substance is changed, so that fewer things fall under a particular classification as toxic. An example is the reclassification of some low-level radioactive waste as "beyond regulatory concern", which permits it to be buried in conventional landfills. Another example is the EPA renaming sewage sludge to biosolids, and allowing it to be used as fertilizer, despite the fact that it often contains many hazardous materials including PCBs, dioxin, arsenic, cadmium, lead, and asbestos. The origin of this phrase has been attributed to environmental activist and author Barry Commoner.
Several activities designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions may be considered merely symbolic greenwash. For example, Earth Hour encourages consumers to switch off electric appliances for 1 hour. This may make people feel good about a minor inconvenience without creating any sustained reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.
Similarly, introduction of a Carbon Emission Trading Scheme may feel good, but may be counterproductive if the cost of carbon is priced too low, or if large emitters are given 'free credits'. For example, Bank of America subsidiary MBNA offers an Eco-Logique MasterCard for Canadian consumers that rewards customers with carbon offsets as they continue using the card. Customers may feel that they are nullifying their carbon footprint by purchasing polluting goods with the card. However, only .5 percent of purchase price goes into purchasing carbon offsets, while the rest of the interchange fee still goes to the bank.
- Bush Administration's Clear Skies Initiative, which environmentalists have argued actually weakens air pollution laws.
- Google has been criticized for claiming its data centers are extremely energy efficient, while refusing to publish any figures on this topic because such information could aid its competitors (an example of the Sin of No Proof).
- Many food products have packaging that evokes an environmentally friendly imagery even though there has been no attempt made at lowering the environmental impact of its production.
- An article in Wired magazine alleges that slogans are used to suggest environmentally benign business activity: the Comcast ecobill has the slogan of "PaperLESSisMORE" but ComCast uses large amounts of paper for direct marketing. The Poland Spring ecoshape bottle is touted as "A little natural does a lot of good", although 80% of beverage containers go to the landfill. The Airbus A380 airliner is described as "A better environment inside and out" even though air travel has a high negative environment cost. 
- According to Fred Pearce's Greenwash column in The Guardian, "clean coal" is the "ultimate climate change oxymoron" -- "pure and utter greenwash" he says.
- The Advertising Standards Authority in the UK upheld several complaints against major car manufacturers including Suzuki, SEAT, Toyota and Lexus who made erroneous claims about their vehicles.
References and Articles:
- ^ "Definition of Greenwashing". Terrachoice.com. http://www.terrachoice.com/Home/Six%20Sins%20of%20Greenwashing. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- ^ "LP: 'The biggest environmental crime in history'". Libertypost.org. http://www.libertypost.org/cgi-bin/readart.cgi?ArtNum=209637. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- ^ "''Lodging Magazine''". Lodgingmagazine.com. http://www.lodgingmagazine.com/ME2/dirmod.asp?sid=&nm=&type=Publishing&mod=Publications%3A%3AArticle&mid=8F3A7027421841978F18BE895F87F791&tier=4&id=FD212DB2AA944808BF5CE6519B2BCC06. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- ^ "''The Jakarta Post''". Thejakartapost.com. http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2008/08/28/commentary-when-csr-neither-profit-nor-public-good.html. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- ^ "ABS-CNB News". Abs-cbnnews.com. 2008-09-17. http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/special-report/09/16/08/beware-green-marketing-warns-greenpeace-exec. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- ^ Karliner, Joshua. "A Brief History of Greenwash", CorpWatch, March 22, 2001. Accessed May 23, 2007.
- ^ http://www.forbrukerombudet.no/asset/2857/1/2857_1.pdf
- ^ "Prove 'clean, green' ads, Norway tells automakers". Motoring.co.za. http://www.motoring.co.za/index.php?fArticleId=4028677. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- ^ "Greenwash Watch: Norways Says Cars Neither Green Nor Clean". Treehugger.com. http://www.treehugger.com/files/2007/09/norway_says_car.php. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- ^ "Norways Says Cars Neither Green Nor Clean". Reuters.com. 2007-09-06. http://www.reuters.com/article/environmentNews/idUSL0671323420070906. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- ^ ""Cashing in on the Environmental Cow" by Climate Change Central". Climatechangecentral.com. http://www.climatechangecentral.com/publications/enerclick/january-2008/cashing-environmental-cow. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- ^ "The Six Sins Of Greenwashing - Misleading Claims Found In Many Products". Enn.com. 2007-12-03. http://www.enn.com/green_building/article/26388. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- ^ http://www.terrachoice.com/files/6_sins.pdf
- ^ "The Seven Sins of Greenwashing (PDF)". http://sinsofgreenwashing.org/?dl_id=2. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- ^ US Senator Patrick Leahy, on the Senate Floor "The Greenwashing of the Bush Anti-Environmental Record on the President's Earth Day Visits to Maine and Florida" April 26, 2004 Accessed June 29, 2007
- ^ Angus Kidman, ZDNet Australia "Google's green data plans a hypocrisy?" June 20, 2007 Accessed July 16, 2009
- ^ Severson, Kim (2007-01-03). "Be It Ever So Homespun, There’s Nothing Like Spin". The New York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/03/dining/03crun.html?_r=1. Retrieved 2009-01-28.
- ^ Hagerman, Eric (2008-10-20). "Little Green Lies—How Companies Erect an Eco-Facade". Wired. http://www.wired.com/techbiz/media/magazine/16-11/st_greenmarketing. Retrieved 2009-01-28.
- ^ Logged in as click here to log out. "Greenwash: Why 'clean coal' is the ultimate climate change oxymoron". Guardian. http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/2009/feb/26/greenwash-clean-coal. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- ^ "ASA Adjudications - Suzuki GB plc". ASA. 2009-06-10. http://www.asa.org.uk/asa/adjudications/Public/TF_ADJ_46368.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-20.
- ^ "ASA Adjudications Volkswagen Group UK Ltd t/a Seat UK". ASA. 2009-04-22. http://www.asa.org.uk/asa/adjudications/Public/TF_ADJ_46140.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-20.
- ^ "ASA Adjudications Toyota (GB) plc". ASA. 2008-12-10. http://www.asa.org.uk/asa/adjudications/Public/TF_ADJ_45447.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-20.
- ^ "ASA Adjudications Lexus (GB) Ltd". ASA. 2008-09-24. http://www.asa.org.uk/asa/adjudications/Public/TF_ADJ_45054.htm. Retrieved 2009-07-20.
- ^ "Green Watch". CHOICE. http://www.choice.com.au/viewArticle.aspx?id=106166&catId=100583&tid=100008. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- ^ Post. "Greenwashing Index". Greenwashing Index. http://www.greenwashingindex.com/. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- ^ "StopGreenwash.org". StopGreenwash.org. http://stopgreenwash.org. Retrieved 2009-09-11.
- ^ "The Unsuitable Blog". Thesietch.org. http://thesietch.org/mysietch/keith. Retrieved 2009-09-11.