What is greenwashing?

Today, ecology is a subject in which companies are very interested. Respect for the environment has become a sensitive and important subject for consumers. Many companies are therefore embarking on this green race and setting up advertising campaigns that promote their eco-friendly practices or products.

However, some companies use deceptive techniques to make their communication appear to be totally ecological. This is called greenwashing. Greenwashing is a marketing technique that consists of communicating to the public in a misleading or dishonest way using the ecological argument.

In April 2021, MEPs banned advertising for the marketing and promotion of fossil fuels, and tightened sanctions against greenwashing ads.

What is the difference between green advertising and greenwashing?

What is greenwashing?

Greenwashing is the practice of putting forward an ecological argument in an abusive way that can mislead the consumer. This practice is now illegal and is considered as misleading advertising.

For example, a company can change the packaging of its product to look "greener". The packaging can be identified with a beautiful plant or fruit. The packaging gives consumers the impression that they are buying something natural and good for the planet. But when you look closer, and especially when you pay attention to the composition of the product, you see that the product is not environmentally friendly at all.

It is a technique also used in the visual creations of advertising campaigns with the presence of a lot of green, nature or wordings that can be assimilated as ecological but that will in reality distort reality.

What is green advertising?

First of all, green marketing highlights a product and its environmental benefits. Green marketing starts with the reliability of a product and its creation. The product should be designed to have a positive impact on sustainability and the environment.

To achieve green advertising, it is essential to focus on the composition of your products.

Here are some essential tips:

  • Develop a new all-natural or organic range
  • Check the composition of the products presented: they must not contain any additives, colourings or other products

The abuses of green advertising: the H&M example

Green communication is represented by certificates recognised in their sector and standards supported by governments. When H&M launched its new H&M Conscious collection in Los Angeles in 2017, it wanted to highlight the sustainable origin of its clothing with 100% organic cotton or recycled polyester. However, the brand did not specify the amount of organic or recycled materials in each garment and did not specify the environmental benefits for each piece in the collection. The Norwegian Consumer Authority decided to stop the campaign as greenwashing. 

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