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GREENWASHING

How marketers can play their part in avoiding greenwashing scandals

By our News Team | 2022

Among other things, astute marketers can help their companies to avoid the ‘seven deadly sins of greenwashing,’ advises marketing body.

Consumers, pressure groups and regulatory authorities are increasingly aware of – and cracking down on – corporate greenwashing. So how do marketers play their part in helping their organisations to be authentic and avoid the many pitfalls?

In a recent article published on its website, the American Marketing Association (AMA), gives some advice gleaned from experts. 

Nina Goodrich, Director of the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, cites the seven sins of greenwashing: the sin of the hidden trade-off, sin of no proof, sin of vagueness, sin of worshiping false labels, sin of irrelevance, sin of the lesser of two evils, and the sin of fibbing.

Greenwashing

Photo by Philipp Mimkes via Wikimedia Commons

Goodrich concluded that all of these greenwashing issues are still rampant. “An example of one of the most egregious claims that we see is stating a package is ‘100% recyclable.’ However, nothing is 100% recyclable because packaging uses inks, coatings, adhesives and other materials,” Goodrich said.

Some products are merely a PR exercise

Brian Hauck, Design Manager and sustainability expert for US-based business services company CBX, notes that while some companies may introduce a product to show its commitment to protecting the environment, that step is often performed to generate positive PR rather than for its impact on the earth.

“The reason you should be committing to eco-friendly practices as marketers or package designers is not only to get credit for it, but because it’s the right thing to do,” he said. “The planet is in peril.”

Companies that really want to make a difference with sustainability efforts should start by putting together a list of sustainability goals and an action plan to make it happen, Hauck believes.

“Recyclability and other eco-friendly claims are going to be ‘table stakes’ (must-haves) for brands because as each generation ages, sustainability becomes more important,” he said. “It’s going to be required by a lot of retailers. There are several [US] states, and even the [US] Federal government, which will be requiring more sustainable solutions from marketers of consumer-packaged goods.”

Avoiding greenwashing is not difficult, as long as a company stays true to its word and follows its plan accordingly, the AMA article emphasises.

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