Many well-known companies claim that they are environmentally conscious and that they carry out eco-friendly, green policies to protect the planet and reduce the carbon footprint of their products. However, environmentalists have found out that they are using greenwashing strategies and that we pay high costs for that. Here are some examples.
1. Beer and famous brewing corporations
One of the first beer companies that started the greenwashing trend was Tuborg. In 2009 they were trying to find new ideas and decided to go green.
First they used a green bottle with a green logo and even a green name. Then they came up with the idea of sponsoring a carbon-neutral swimming pool at a music festival. The pool was in the shape of the Tuborg logo and people had to ride on a bike in order to generate energy and get in. This is a common trick for marketing beer as eco-friendly (using pools, giant wheels, etc). In that way they were not only encouring people to become environmentally friendly but also to drink more beer at parties.
Another example is Heineken. They helped their customers make their own green statement by producing eco-friendly canvas shopping bags from recycled billboards. The consumers became "walking billboards" for Heiniken and the shopping bags implied that the company was going green. However, there was no switch to renewable energy because the company's emissions increased due to expanded production. The bags were a deft way of disguing this reality.
Another, more common approach is for a company to green up just one of its products. This was the case od Cascade Pure (initially called Cascade Green), one of the most aggressively marketed „green beers“ in Australia. The beer had a green logo and, according to the company, the emissions were "100% carbon offset". To be more convincing, the company shared information on its website on how the company was reducing its carbon footprint. All was accompanied by relaxing forest sounds. However, Cascade is a part of Forster's beer and it was simply used as evidence of the larger brand's climate friendliness and of its commitment to promote a sustainable future. But Cascade Green offset accounted for less than 1% of the emissions of the company's products.
Many brewing multinationals, like SAB Miller, Carlsberg and Heineken, claim that they produce "green beer", that their emissions are falling and their products sustainable.
SAB Miller claimed that it cut its operational emissions by 450,000 tonnes in three years but we were not given the full picture.
Most of the carbon footprint is not generated by the brewing operations, it's tied up in the supply chain instead (from the hop and barley cultivation, the raw materials used for packaging, the transportation, etc).In fact, these emissions are over ten times greater.
On the other hand, there is the beautiful example of a Californian brewing company, Eel River, which is the first certified organic brewery in the US. The brewery gets all the power it needs to make its beer from a renewable source: the waste timber from a miller.
That can really be considered a „green beer“ because it uses 100% of renewable energy.
There are also other similar brewing companies like Anderson Valley, in California, which produces "solar powered beer" and Nørrebro Bryghus, in Denmark, which produced the first "carbon-neutral Danish beer"
These companies are not perfect but they have shown that something can be done to reduce carbon emission and make a really green product.
2. ICT: phones, computers and office electronics
Ricoh is a famous Japanese office equipment company that has been erecting giant billboards in prime locations, such as Times Square, the M4 motorway between London and Heathrow Airport, and North Sydney. Ricoh's Eco-Boards display TV commercials, magazine ads and YouTube videos and are powered with 100% renewable energy, i.e. wind and solar power.
The boards demonstrate Ricoh's commitment to sustainable innovation. The company claims that if all billboards followed their lead, the carbon dioxide saved would equate to keeping all the world's cars off the road for a whole day.
But what Ricoh doesn't say is that it gets over 98% of its energy from non-renewable sources and that its carbon footprint is increasing.
So Ricoh is using greenwashing tricks to hide the growing carbon footprint of its products.
Dell, the famous computer company, has been producing "green" logos and encouraging consumers to discuss the idea that climate change is a bad thing. Dell has promoted many "green" initiatives, like the one in India „Dell Go Green Challenge“ where it donated laptops to people who had the most original green ideas.
In 2009, Dell started a collaboration with Southern Company (the second largest electricity utility in the US). Since then they have claimed to go green, causing minimal impact on the environment and investing in capabilities such as solar, biomass, and geothermal energy. But Southern Company gets a mere 2% of its electricity from renewable sources.
Besides, although Dell was ranked the "Greenest company in America" in 2011, its total emission is rising and the greenhouse pollution of its products is increasing.
A similar thing happened with IBM, a company that has been considered green and climate-friendly and that won the Climate Leadership Awards and gold medals for corporate achievement in sustainable development. Yet IBM’s operational emissions are rising. They increased by 200,000 tonnes in five years. Not to mention the emission produced by the supply chain, transport and distribution of its equipment.
Apple is another company that claims to be green. Its green Apple logo and commercials support the idea that its MacBooks are “the world’s greenest family of notebooks”.
The size of the family is important when it comes to determining the overall impact on the environment. Apple sells millions of iPhones which clearly have a large and growing carbon footprint. Environmentalists say that if you stack all of them on top of one another, they will make a pile 150 time as high as Mount Everest.
But, although the company claims that it is trying to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, its carbon footprint is growing very fast. Apple should substitute its „Better Products. Smaller Impact“ slogan with „More Product. Bigger Impact".
To sum up, many companies often use crafty and greenwashing strategies to better sell their products, even if this implies deceiving consumers, sharing misinformation or disguising the truth.
The Greenwash Effect by Guy Pearse