Greenwashing/United States

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In July 2006 Brandweek examined some greenwashing efforts by companies in light of a branding survey claiming that most consumers don't care anyway.

A released study by Landor Associates, part of the WPP Group, found that "fifty-eight percent of the general population" are "self-proclaimed "Non-Green' individuals [who] do not care about environmentally friendly practices, including recycling, corporate social responsibility, or natural and/or organic ingredients. ... [T]wenty-five percent of the respondents consider themselves 'Green Interested,' meaning that while this group is concerned about the environment, it is not active in its defense. The remaining seventeen percent surveyed are, in fact, 'Green Motivated,' meaning that they feel it's very important for a company to be Green." [1]

Brandweek observed "the noise in the green marketing space has grown louder in recent months" with " Dow Chemical's 'Human Element' campaign ... Shell Oil launched a $30 million marketing campaign in June ... General Electric continues to build on its 'Ecomagination' effort... In June a public/private partnership titled EcoZone was launched, created by EcoMedia, a New York-based media company. Such companies as DaimlerChrysler, Alcoa and AbTech ... pay up to $5,000 per sign to put their logos on billboards carrying environmental messages ... 'Green is green as in the color of money,' said Judy Hu ... at General Electric. 'It is about a business opportunity, and we believe we can increase our revenue behind these Ecomagination products and services.' " [2]

The Rising Tide of Green Advertising

In December 2005 the New York Times noted that corporations including Ford, Exxon Mobil, BP, General Electric and Alcan "appear to be spending ever-bigger chunks of their advertising budgets to promote" what critics call greenwashing. New ad campaigns from WPP, Omnicom Group, and Interpublic Group tout corporate "environmental do-goodism." [3]

"Oil companies, under attack for reaping windfall profits from soaring fuel prices, are trying to position themselves as part of the solution to energy problems rather than the cause. Manufacturers of fuel-efficient automobiles, jet engines or other green products are recognizing that they can burnish their image even as they promote their products. And companies in all industries are trying to make socially conscious investors and customers comfortable about buying their products and shares." [4]

In January 2006 Bloomberg reported that a recent ad Ford claims it is "dramatically ramping up its commitment" to more environmentally friendly cars. "Left unstated in Ford's recent ads: In 2003, the No. 2 U.S. automaker after General Motors, dropped its promise to increase average fuel efficiency on its sport utility fleet. In 2004, the company joined other automakers in suing to block a California law that would limit emissions of gases linked to global warming. And even if Ford meets its goals, low-emission hybrids by 2010 would make up less than 4 percent of the company's fleet," Bloomberg reports. Richard Blumenthal, Connecticut's attorney general, called some of Ford's claims "questionable," telling Bloomberg, "They're definitely exploiting the fashion of environmentally friendly vehicles." [5]

US Examples

Examples of greenwashing in the United States include:

Books

  • Carl Deal, The Greenpeace Guide to Anti-Environmental Organizations, Odonian Press, Berkeley, 1993.

Greenwashing Case studies

External links