Greenwashing

“Greenwashing” is a term used when an organization spends more time and money promoting itself as being green than actually taking action to be green. Here’s a really funny website that pokes fun of the Conservative government in Canada for greenwashing. The website is a satire of Environment Canada’s actual website, which is full of announcements showing that Canada’s New Government is taking environmental action. It is no wonder that Canada is not meeting its Kyoto goals. Announcing new incentive programs, such as ecoEnergy Retrofit for Homes does not accomplish anything when it is simply rebranding a program (i.e. the Energuide for Houses program) that existed under the previous government. I’m not saying that the Liberal government did a better job; I’m just saying that it’s time for the government, no matter who is in power, to actually take action instead of greenwashing.

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Posted in government policy, greenwash
4 comments on “Greenwashing
  1. jasonchoueiri says:

    Although the general idea that Canada could do more greening is valid, I don’t fully agree that it does not accomplish anything….

    First, I recently purchased a new home in Ottawa and received a tax rebate for having an eco-friendly house footprint. Also, the appliances I purchased were EnergyStar products and I received a rebate on their purchase as well. There are also other examples, such as rebates on hybrid cars and tax rebates for transit riders that are accomplishing greening practices…but of course, government can only put incentive programs in place, people have to exploit them.

    Also, it is true that government departments like Environment Canada are doing a lot of promotion; however, we can’t expect them to be effective immediately. In fact, it’s up to people to accept these new programs and use them for the benefit of all. Going back to the example at DND (see blog on Creating the Competitive Advantage), we promoted green procurement for over a year and saw few changes. However, it is now part of our training, and guidance, and this hopefully will drive a change in culture.

    I think the government can only put the right conditions for individuals to leverage good green practices from. It still requires the individuals to take part of this “green” transformation!

    Just my thoughts…
    JC

  2. blainewalsh says:

    To add to the idea of ‘Greenwashing’ it can also refer to marketing by businesses that can be misleading in their claims of ‘being green’. I think there are a significant number of businesses and governments that are using the ‘being green’ marketing scheme for their own benefit and to the detriment of the population. In doing some research, I came across a website that rates marketing ads on their ‘Greenwashing Index’. You can find the website here: http://www.greenwashingindex.com/
    The idea is that consumers/users can upload ads that they think are guilty of greenwashing and the general public can view the ads to become more educated to this growing problem.
    You may be wondering why this is such a problem today. More often than not these businesses are using ‘being green’ or ‘going green’ to gain market share from the increasing numbers of environmentally conscious consumers. The problem with the advertising is that consumers purchase these products thinking that they are doing their part in the helping to save the planet, only to be duped by these businesses taking advantage of their sense of social responsibility. It’s also bad for the businesses themselves, even if they don’t realize it. It’s been shown that businesses who engage in green activities typically benefit on the bottom line.
    Use the GreenWashing Index (GWI) to view ads, and post ads to help educate consumers on the good guys and the bad guys.

  3. RGiggey says:

    I don’t think the Government’s responsibility does or should end with simply creating these programs. They need to both actively promote it, in ways that will reach their target audience, follow-up on the up-take, and adjust the communication or program accordingly. Many government programs and initiatives fail, in my opinion, simply from poor communication.

    TV commercials don’t always cut it – they’ve got to seriously think about how they can get to their audience, and if they don’t succeed (need to measure) than change something. It can’t be a system where they say “well we offered the program, put the information on our website, and nobody took us up on it, they must not be interested”. They have to be smart and engaged when it comes to communicating these types of services, and they should probably look at active partnerships with industry.

    Case in point: how many people here know about Canada’s (or their countries) sustainability programs? If you don’t know about them, don’t worry, search through their websites long enough and you’ll find them.

  4. jsitu79 says:

    Whenever the government announce a new (or rebranded) program, it generates environmental awareness. Although awareness alone does not accomplish anything, I would suggest that the Canadian people are still lacking a strong awareness of environmental practices. Statistics Canada Household Environment Survey (http://www.statcan.ca/Daily/English/070711/d070711b.htm) show that many households still engage in many practices that have a negative impact on the environment. In terms of awareness, there has been an increase in energy conservation equipment such as programmable thermostats, but one-fifth of people with them do not program them.

    So, I would suggest that any type of promotion on environmental program helps increase awareness, and the Household Environment Survey would suggest that there is still some return to be had from awareness increases.

    I do agree that more proactive action is necessary to meet Kyoto goals, but lets give the government “greenwashing” the credit it is due insofar as its contribution to awareness.

    Jerry

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