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  • 작성자 사진Kim Da-hye

[Feature] The Two Faces of Eco-Friendly Marketing: About Greenwashing

No.160 / Oct 17, 2022

Yvon Chouinard, the founder of Patagonia, donated 100% of the company’s ownership to environmental organizations and non-profit foundations. Patagonia, a global outdoor brand in the United States (U.S.), is famous for donating 1% of its sales to environmental protection organizations every year. Patagonia has actively engaged in environmental protection and promoted slogans related to the environment. Their environmental philosophy, “eco-friendly”, is gradually becoming a trend, and many consumers’ interest in eco-friendliness is increasing. As a result, companies are building eco-friendly images to increase sales and generate profits by gaining people’s attention.

However, poor justification for environmental protection may damage brand’s image. Last June, Patagonia launched a new brand campaign. It was an advertisement called “Patagonia doesn’t sell trends.” Some said that 20% sale during the Spring/Summer (S/S) season and influencer marketing seem to be leading the trend. In this way, the contradiction of brands that emphasize public interest value for the environment is related to greenwashing. Greenwashing is a combination of “whitewashing”, which means covering up unpleasant facts, and “green”, which means the natural environment. The word “greenwashing” was first used in American magazines in 1991 to criticize the case of promoting the brand through exaggerated advertisements or unproven claims. It is a situation that exaggerates eco-friendly practices for profit while deceiving consumers. As such, the controversy over greenwashing occurs mainly in the fashion and food and beverage industries. For example, Starbucks Korea held a reusable cup event to celebrate its 50th anniversary. There was a counterargument that the purpose of the event was confused by promoting plastic while shouting eco-friendly, but Starbucks said it intended to encourage the use of reusable cups. However, reusable cups are made harder and thicker than disposable cups, resulting in more greenhouse gas emissions. An Environmental Protection group in Canada, CIRAIG also released a study that said, “It is meaningful to the environment that plastic tumblers should be used more than 50 times and stainless-steel tumblers should be used more than 220 times.”

Then, how should we cope with this situation? Professor Lee Eun-hee, who introduced “Seven Types of Greenwashing”, argues the need for accurate ingredient labeling and the disclosure of relevant evidence. She also talked about the greenwashing guidelines proposed by the British Competition Markets Authority (CMA) saying it is important to prepare a check to help the brand disclose clear information. It collects examples for setting brand’s greenwashing criteria and recommends correcting the brand’s inappropriate advertising phrases. The essence of greenwashing surveillance is to reduce environmental pollution and add to environmental conservation efforts. Brand practice begins with transparent disclosure of information. Modern consumers behave prudently with the temptation of brands. Consumers need numerical and quantified information to identify ingredients, not a logo. Objective figures, such as nutritional information written on a canned beverage or a calorie chart attached to mayonnaise, have more power than logos. If production planning and the production process are transparently disclosed, consumers will directly judge brand’s authenticity. Consumers need continuous attention and an information-gathering capability, not thoughtless purchasing of eco-friendly products. People should be alerted to the existence of greenwashing and try to make wise consumption for the earth.


By Kim Da-hye, AG Reporter

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