Real goals or just greenwashing?

Sustainability and environmental awareness are also becoming increasingly important for companies. A move away from the cheapest possible production to responsible manufacturing has become mandatory in some sales markets. Finally, it is obvious that companies respond to respective trends of the population and try to differentiate themselves from the competition. From this, customer-centric marketing and PR measures are developed in order to appeal to potential customers. Companies thus try to suggest that they represent social values. In doing so, however, companies are not always honest or consistent.

One case can be greenwashing. In greenwashing, a company tries to create a "green image" for itself through appropriate communication measures. However, unlike companies that are genuinely committed to sustainability and environmental organizations, greenwashing is aimed purely at image; the measures are inconsistent, purely symbolic, or do not even get off the ground.

In this regard, there are various approaches and actions of individual companies, which ultimately mostly pursue one goal: higher sales. Companies promise themselves this by building up a sympathy bonus, by developing measures which coincide with the value concepts of consumers or investors. Because through the identification with the company or products on the part of the consumers, the companies promise themselves a tendency of higher support as well as consumption rate. However, greenwashing measures are also used for purposes such as pushing new "green product lines" or to publicize the company itself at press conferences. 

When the hoax is uncovered

There are many different approaches to greenwashing, but many of them have already failed or even caused lasting damage to the company. A surcharge for disposable plastic bags in a supermarket where all items are otherwise wrapped in plastic, justified by environmental protection, is a practical example of greenwashing. Aldi had to learn this when the discount chain wanted a symbolic cent more for the shopping bags in order to avoid waste. 

The fashion market also advertises an awareness of sustainability, which on closer inspection turns out to be a hoax. As Handelsblatt reported, less than one percent of H&M's total items come from sustainable resources, but the Swedish fashion house actively advertises its range of sustainable clothes. 

Greenwashing campaigns are not always easy to spot, and many of them even get away with their hoaxes or don't catch on until years later. In order not to fall for greenwashing oneself, products as well as the companies behind them should be specifically questioned. Even if this is not always easy, fuzzy descriptions or non-transparent images can be a good indication of this.