Featured image by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay
Many companies advertise with promises of sustainability that don’t stand up to close scrutiny. “Greenwashing,” in other words, has become widespread.
In other words, companies offer green solutions that at first glance seem to be environmentally friendly. They appear to be fair and ethical. However, a second look often shows that some companies are hoping to make big profits from greenwashing instead of acting sustainably.
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Labor exploitation, factory farming, rainforest overexploitation: The adverse side effects of our consumption have reached mainstream society. As consumers and investors become more aware, companies like Royal Craft Wood are increasingly offering more sustainable products.
More and more companies and public relations professionals are picking up on this trend.
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Do CSR Departments Lead to Greater Sustainability?
Many “eco-friendly” brands demonstrate the opposite of their stated opinions by their actions.
Their own CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility) departments demonstrate a perceived willingness to combine social and environmental goals with economic performance.
The Austrian Economic Chamber defines CSR as “a concept that provides companies with a framework for integrating social and environmental considerations into their business activities and into their engagement with stakeholder groups voluntarily.”
Many companies’ public image of being environmentally friendly and responsible is expanding. However, this sometimes happens by dishonest means.
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What Are Some Examples of Greenwashing?
For example, Coca-Cola boasted of a plastic waste collection ad campaign only after an environmental organization exposed it as being one of the world’s biggest plastic polluters.
Similarly, the fashion giant H&M says it wants to create an eco-friendly image through recycling. However, this appears to be true in only a part of the company’s business.
In short, large brands spend a lot of time and money claiming to be eco-friendly. Meanwhile, their business practices don’t actually lead to sustainability in the long run.
In fact, many customers believe they have been defrauded by companies that entice them to purchase products that are not truly eco-friendly.
No Single International Retailer Stands Out as Running a Truly Sustainable Operation
“There is no company that is convincing in the long run,” says filmmaker Werner Bute. Together with journalist Katrin Hartmann, he took a close look at the machinations of large companies in the documentary Green Lies.
Bute concluded, “The extent of the environment lies in the industry is evidenced by the fact that we have many different cases in a careful study of every industry imaginable. The methods and procedures of the corporations have always been the same.”
Another example of misleading marketing comes from furniture store Ikea. They say their products offer “better cotton production” because their textile suppliers are part of the Better Cotton Initiative (BCI).
But you might legitimately ask, “Better than what?” This is because BCI targets are quite favorable to industry, meaning these targets do not harm or affect sales figures.
One consumer advocacy expert is especially critical of the BCI’s quality and sustainability programs. They point to such examples as Cocoa for Generations (Mars) or Conscious (H&M). This is because these are mostly niche programs and lack sufficient independent oversight. “You always have to ask yourself,” says this expert, “Does the green service have anything to do with the core business of the company?”
Homebuilder Baufritz Is All About Sustainability
Baufritz, the manufacturer of wooden houses made from sustainable and certified building materials, clearly positions itself as an eco-friendly brand.
The company is located in the countryside, and every new employee plants a tree. The most visible sign of green efforts is five photovoltaic systems in the production halls.
Each employee can buy a module for 3,000 euros. Then they receive several hundred euros annually by introducing it into the network.
Moreover, there is no wireless local area network (WLAN) on the company’s property. Company executives say that this is because they understand that radiation can harm employees. Moreover, drinking water in the company’s region is “mineralized.” These are measures that only a few years ago were ridiculed by other companies but are now becoming more commonplace.