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Economics

Greenwashing - the wolf in green clothing

"Greenwashing" is all over the media these days. But what does it mean? And why is it essential for us as consumers to be adequately informed?

Greenwashing is the marketing method of making a misleading or unfounded claim about the environmental benefits of a product or service. This means that companies advertise themselves with the statement that they are environmentally friendly in order to improve their image and thus increase sales. Especially today - in the wave of climate strikes, environmental awareness and social start-ups - many people attach great importance to sustainable consumption.

Thus, with greenwashing, companies can reach a more extensive, perhaps even atypical, target group. After all, purchasing decisions are significantly influenced by the feeling conveyed to the customer by a product or brand.

The fact that "environmentally friendly" products make people feel less guilty means that they tend to be more inclined to spend money. The word greenwashing is based on the colour green as a symbol for nature and environmental protection - a colour that is often used for the design of packaging and advertisements precisely because of this association. "From controlled cultivation", "responsible", "natural" and "free of harmful substances" are just a few examples of terms that are not precisely defined or protected, and are therefore also used in greenwashing to increase the value of a product from the customer's point of view, thus enticing him to buy it.

As the issue of sustainability is increasingly in the spotlight these days, and many people are therefore questioning the truth content of advertising promises, companies are also becoming more aware of truly sustainable products. Greenwashing damages not only the environment, but also the company's own image. This is why they feel increasingly compelled to actually meet the demands for social and ecological fairness.

Don't support greenwashing

However, companies should, of course, be as transparent as possible towards their customers and not make promises if they deliberately do not keep them and instead focus on remaining competitive at all costs. In order not to support greenwashing, consumers should pay attention to whether brands or products that boast of sustainability and fairness can display official seals of approval and certifications.

The topic of greenwashing will be addressed more intensively in a panel discussion at "SensAbility - The WHU Impact Summit", Europe's largest student-organized conference on social and sustainable business. On March 27 and 28, 2020, experts from a wide range of fields, from the automotive industry to young green start-ups, will discuss a variety of social and environmental challenges and potential solutions. If you don't want to miss this, secure tickets for the conference now at www.sensability.de!

This article was published in cooperation with our partner Social Startup Magazin.

Photo © Lynn Greyling via Pixabay

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