The Dangers of Corporate Greenwashing

Today, people are more dedicated to saving the planet. Their advocacy is fueled by the constant news on environmental degradation. The images of koala bears desperately hanging onto tree branches to survive the Australian bushfires will forever be ingrained in our minds. This is why many of us are improving our efforts to save the environment. We purchase a solar power bank so that we have access to an alternative and less environmentally-harmful source of energy. We prefer shopping at a farmer’s market now to avoid plastic waste and to support the local farmers. As a result of this dedication to nature, people take corporate greenwashing very seriously.

Greenwashing is when corporations share misleading information about their environmental causes. They are prone to using buzzwords such as “chemical-free,” “eco-friendly,” and “certified green” even if it’s not exactly true. But they place such words on their marketing materials to appeal to the large, environmentally-friendly market. But greenwashing can lead to dire effects on our business, the people, and, of course, the environment. Here’s how.

Negative Impact on the Environment

It’s not surprising that greenwashing affects the environment the most. After all, it starts with companies that aren’t adapting to eco-friendly business practices. They might be using materials at the cost of the lives of plants and animals. Billions of trees have fallen down to provide timber for many products ranging from infrastructure to furniture. Alligators have died so their skin could be used as materials for leather purses, wallets, and belts.

But because companies are making it seem that they’re not doing such practices, they’d be less inclined to actually stop doing them. They have the market hooked on their greenwashing. This way, they can just carry on with how they actually run their operations and make their products. Even if they’re not reducing their carbon footprint.

In the end, what happens is that customers fall prey to greenwashing. Companies make a sizable profit. And the environment continues to struggle.

Business’ Loss of Trust from the Public

Once a business has gained traction and earned the public’s trust, then they’re on their way to success. The next challenge is maintaining them. So to lose such things could lead to dire consequences for your business. Unfortunately, greenwashing could lead to that. And yes, even as big a company as Nestlé is prone to it.

Back in 2019, Nestlé faced a class-action lawsuit. They falsely claimed that their cocoa beans are “sustainably sourced.” This claim was part of a marketing campaign that celebrates over 100 years of creating chocolate-based products. But researchers have uncovered the fact that their cocoa beans were contributing to the deforestation in West Africa. This meant that our beloved snacks and beverages such as Butterfinger and Nesquik chocolate milk are made at the cost of forest life. The suit tackles how the food and beverage company was contributing to child and slave labor practices in the said African country.

In response, Nestlé is trying to shift its practices into something more ethical. They’re doing through the Nestlé Cocoa Plan. It aims to end child and slave labor, and environmental degradation. But, despite their efforts to right their wrongs, people won’t easily forget the issue that started with greenwashing.

Financial Costs for the Consumers

The biggest issue with shopping and eating in eco-friendly stores and restaurants is that they can be a bit pricier than others. An example is Package Free. It’s a zero-waste store based in New York City. It provides essential products from water bottles to razors. They are more eco-friendly alternatives than the ones that we can buy in mainstream stores. The catch, however, is that they can be expensive. For example, a bamboo toothbrush from Package Free costs $4.50. But if we go to a CVS for a plastic toothbrush, we can find one that costs as low as a few cents or a dollar.

There are many reasons why eco-friendly products are much more expensive than other products. But the problem is that, through greenwashing, companies are able to increase their prices. In effect, people might be paying more for products than what they actually should.

Greenwashing is one of the biggest issues that environmental advocates are trying to fight. It can help companies with their popularity and profit. But it’s important for everyone to understand that greenwashing can lead to negative impacts. For businesses, a terrible case of greenwashing could take down companies. Knowing the cost of it will help business owners understand that being honest about their operations is much better than misleading their customers.