Greenwashing by Association: What is it?

Greenwashing by Association: What is it?

Sustainability is everywhere. As you may already be aware, our focus as a company is to stop #greenwashing. We’re starting a month long dive into the types of greenwashing. This week let’s learn about the most common one - greenwashing by association.:

Greenwashing by Association: What is it?

We've all heard of greenwashing: the practice of companies falsely portraying themselves as environmentally friendly. But there's a newer, subtler form you may not be familiar with – Greenwashing by Association. This involves companies partnering with, or aligning themselves with brands known for their sustainability efforts, with the aim of improving their own green image, despite their lack of genuine sustainable actions.

How it works:

Here are a few popular subtypes of greenwashing by association:

  • Sponsorships and Partnerships: A company with a poor environmental track record might sponsor an environmental event or form a partnership with a well-known environmental organization. This can create an impression in the minds of the public that the company is genuinely committed to sustainability.
  • Endorsements: Sometimes, companies use endorsements from green celebrities or environmental experts to appear more environmentally friendly than they really are.
  • Use of Imagery: Companies might use green imagery, such as pictures of forests, wildlife, or clean water, in their advertising and branding, implying a connection or support for environmental causes without any real action or commitment behind it.
  • Product Placement: A company might place its product alongside eco-friendly products, creating an impression of environmental friendliness by proximity, even if their own product doesn't have the same green credentials.
  • Affiliation with Green Labels: Some companies use labels or certifications that sound environmental but might not have stringent standards or might even be made up. Simply being affiliated with these "green" labels can be misleading.

What companies use it the most?

Eco Hotels: Some boutique hotels or resorts may claim to be "eco-friendly" by associating with certain green initiatives, such as providing organic soap or using bamboo towels. However, when considering their overall environmental footprint, including water usage, waste management, and energy consumption, they may not be sustainable at all.

Cosmetic Brands: Some smaller cosmetic brands might use terms like "natural" or "organic" or associate with green imagery, yet only include a minor percentage of natural ingredients in their products. They rely on the association with green terms or images without genuinely offering sustainable products.

Bamboo Products: While bamboo can be a sustainable material, not all bamboo products are created equal. Some companies may sell bamboo products, associating them with sustainability, even if the processing methods used to create the products are not eco-friendly.

Fashion Collaborations: Smaller fast-fashion brands sometimes collaborate with eco-friendly influencers or introduce limited-edition "eco" collections. Such collaborations or collections might give the impression that the entire brand is moving towards sustainability, even if the majority of their practices remain unchanged.

Local Green Labels: In various countries, local environmental certifications or labels are sometimes less rigorous than they seem. Smaller brands might prominently display such labels on their products, giving the impression of robust environmental standards when, in fact, the standards might be minimal or loosely enforced.

Other Faces of Greenwashing:

Greenwashing doesn't stop with associations. Some companies use vague language (e.g., "eco-friendly" without specifics), while others exaggerate the benefits of one small green initiative, overshadowing their larger, harmful practices. There's also the tactic of using misleading visuals, such as verdant forests on packaging, giving an illusion of eco-friendliness. You’ll learn more about them in the coming weeks. Meanwhile, don’t forget to check all your texts with to make sure none of #marketing texts have any hint of greenwashing in them.

Fun Fact:

Fiji water and the "Green Drop" Campaign: In an effort to brand itself as environmentally conscious, it launched a marketing campaign centered around a green drop symbol on its labels, suggesting its commitment to environmental causes. The company made claims about its product being carbon-negative and that it was making efforts towards environmental restoration.

However, this attracted the scrutiny of environmentalists who pointed out the inherent contradiction: Fiji Water is bottled in a remote island nation and then shipped thousands of miles to its main markets. The carbon footprint of transporting the water alone makes it a less sustainable choice than local tap water in many locations.

This drew attention to the broader environmental costs associated with bottled water, especially when considering the energy and resources required for bottling, transporting, and then recycling (or not) the plastic bottles.

Stay informed, stay actually sustainable, without the wash!