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Green Lies vs. sustainability

From huge fast food chains to fashion houses and the fishing industry: greenwashing is widespread and has been an important part of many marketing strategies for some time now. People’s interest in sustainability and environmental protection is growing and supposedly green products are finding their way into consumers’ shopping baskets. But what is greenwashing and how do you recognize it?

Greenwashing can affect all forms of external presentation: Advertising and promotional campaigns, labels, packaging, online presences or social media posts. Green is used as a color in marketing to focus on the effect of nature. In addition, images and videos that are strongly linked to nature and sustainability are usually selected. With a green coat of paint, companies can present themselves as particularly ecological and deceive consumers in a targeted manner.

However, companies do not want a green image because of a sudden change in values, but because consumers are more aware of climate and environmentally conscious consumption. According to a study on the consumer behavior of the Austrian population, awareness of sustainable and preferably regional consumption has never been as high as it is today. Around 90% of consumers pay particular attention to sustainability when buying food. Origin and transparency are also playing an increasingly important role for many consumers when shopping.

According to a study by Marketagent, which examined the green image of companies, companies from the fashion, energy, food and automotive sectors in particular are associated with greenwashing. Many companies from these sectors do not implement their sustainability promises and environmental projects or deliberately conceal information about production and working conditions.

Greenwashing as a common practice of companies

Many companies use terms such as CO2 compensation or climate neutrality, even though their own procedures are not adapted and their own emissions are not avoided. A well-known example of this is the oil company Shell, which offers “climate-neutral refueling” and thus promises a perfect world. However, how Shell’s climate-damaging emissions are offset in projects in distant countries usually remains completely unclear to consumers.

To put an end to greenwashing, the EU has agreed that larger companies will have to disclose their business activities and their impact on the environment, human rights and social standards from 2024 on. The data will then be independently audited and certified. The new directive is part of a major EU package for a climate-neutral European economy. In the longer term, these measures can help to ensure that consumers receive reliable information about the environmental impact of products and can therefore make informed and sustainable purchasing decisions.


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