What Is Greenwash? And Is It Just Hogwash?

Greenwashing – the act of making something sound environmentally friendly when it’s not – is prevelant in this new eco-conscious world we live in. I had a whole article planned about it but the internet is a wonderful thing and other people have beaten me to it.

Before I get to the six sins of greenwashing though, it’s interesting to note which five companies are perceived to be the most environmentally friendly according to the Climate Group in the UK. The top five in their Climate Brand Index looks like:
1. Tesco
2. BP
3. The Co-operative
4. M&S
5. Sainsbury’s

With the exception of M&S and the Co-op who aren’t bad, the rest are no way near green. But it proves that those who shout loudest about being environmentally friendly are perceived to be – without actually being the best. Greenwash works.


There are six sins of greenwashing according to TerraCoice, an environmental marketing agency. They are:

1. Sin of the Hidden Trade-Off: e.g. “Energy-efficient” electronics that contain hazardous materials. 998 products or 57% of all environmental claims committed this Sin.

2. Sin of No Proof: e.g. Shampoos claiming to be “certified organic,” but with no verifiable certification. 454 products and 26% of environmental claims committed this Sin.

3. Sin of Vagueness: e.g. Products claiming to be 100% natural when many naturally-occurring substances are hazardous, like arsenic and formaldehyde. Seen in 196 products or 11% of environmental claims.

4. Sin of Irrelevance: e.g. Products claiming to be CFC-free, even though CFCs were banned 20 years ago. This Sin was seen in 78 products and 4% of environmental claims.

5. Sin of Fibbing: e.g. Products falsely claiming to be certified by an internationally recognized environmental standard like EcoLogo, Energy Star or Green Seal. Found in 10 products or less than 1% of environmental claims.

6. Sin of Lesser of Two Evils: e.g. Organic cigarettes or “environmentally friendly” pesticides, This occurred in 17 products or 1% of environmental claims.

The point being – don’t believe the hype.


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