Introduction to StopGreenwash.org
These days, green is the new black. Corporations are falling all over themselves to demonstrate to current and potential customers that they are not only ecologically conscious, but also environmentally correct.
Some businesses are genuinely committed to making the world a better, greener place. But for far too many others, environmentalism is little more than a convenient slogan. Buy our products, they say, and you will end global warming, improve air quality, and save the oceans. At best, such statements stretch the truth; at worst, they help conceal corporate behavior that is environmentally harmful by any standard.
The average citizen is finding it more and more difficult to tell the difference between those companies genuinely dedicated to making a difference and those that are using a green curtain to conceal dark motives. Consumers are constantly bombarded by corporate campaigns touting green goals, programs, and accomplishments. Even when corporations voluntarily strengthen their record on the environment, they often use multi-million dollar advertising campaigns to exaggerate these minor improvements as major achievements.
Sometimes, not even the intentions are genuine. Some companies, when forced by legislation or a court decision to improve their environmental track record, promote the resulting changes as if they had taken the step voluntarily. And at the same time that many corporations are touting their new green image (and their CEOs are giving lectures on corporate ecological ethics), their lobbyists are working night and day in Washington to gut environmental protections.
All this – and more – is what Greenpeace calls greenwashing – the cynical use of environmental themes to whitewash corporate misbehavior. The term was coined around 1990 when some of America’s worst polluters (including DuPont, Chevron, Bechtel, the American Nuclear Society, and the Society of Plastics Industry) tried to pass themselves off as eco-friendly at a trade fair taking place in Washington, DC.
But make no mistake: corporations were using greenwashing long before that trade fair took place, and have not hesitated to use it ever since. As the public’s (and the media’s) environmental awareness has grown, so too has the sophistication of corporate public relations strategies. If companies had spent as much time and money improving their core business practices as they have spent making themselves look green, they might have made a real difference.
Greenpeace wants corporations to talk the talk, but not if they are merely cynically using such rhetoric to conceal their utter failure to walk the walk. We believe that corporations must play a central, essential role in helping to solve the world’s environmental challenges. We believe they can do so by ending their destructive policies and by waking up to the economic benefits of environmentally sustainable practices and products.
In that spirit, we call on companies to stop portraying baby steps on the environment as giant strides. When an oil company invests in wind or solar power, every little bit helps. But we need more than “little bits” to solve global warming, halt deforestation, prevent the destruction of the oceans, and end the proliferation of toxic chemicals. As long as half-measures are sold as full solutions, corporate actions, no matter how sincere, will be nothing more than a more sophisticated form of greenwashing.