Many companies today are quick to give themselves a “green label”, also with regard to their products – but they often make themselves look greener than they really are. Greenwashing is a complex issue and unfortunately still very topical. The line between a sustainable approach and clear greenwashing is not always recognisable, but it is exciting to deal with it.
What is greenwashing?
According to the definition of the Oxford Dictionary, greenwashing is a strategy by which actors try to create an image of ecological responsibility by deliberately spreading disinformation.
There is no one greenwashing. Companies can be very creative in what they consider to be sustainable, green, climate-neutral, etc. The important thing is that companies continue to promote greenwashing. The important thing is that companies can continue as before. Only now sustainable or “green”.
Why do companies engage in greenwashing?
The focus is clearly on economic interests: instead of actually acting sustainably, companies hope to make a greater profit through giving their products and services a green image. There are numerous instruments of greenwashing that companies use to gain an advantage. These include: a better image, a higher price for the allegedly ecologically produced product, greater political support through the impression of sustainable management.
How does greenwashing work?
Companies use different strategies so that they can be perceived as environmentally friendly:
- Companies create their own seals. No neutral body issues or verifies them. Here you can find out more about the independent standards to rely on, e.g. GOTS clothing.
- They hide behind impressive words without providing concrete evidence for them.
- Many effective words are not protected and can be used freely.
- Qualities are emphasised that are, however, irrelevant .
- Positive aspects are emphasised, the larger, negative context is obscured.
Why is euphemism problematic?
If fair working conditions and ecological standards are advertised in Southeast Asia, it is difficult for customers in Germany to understand this. Another problem that also affects companies that behave in a truly sustainable way is greenwashing scandals. A single scandal can discredit an entire industry. In addition, customers pay overpriced prices for a product that is supposedly sustainable, but in reality is not. So they suffer financial damage.
One of the most recent cases of greenwashing allegations is that of Deutsche Bank subsidiary DWS Group (DWS). DWS’s clients include corporations, foundations, large institutions, governments and private investors. In its active, passive and alternative business, DWS places a strong focus on the sustainability aspects of environment, social and governance (ESG).
However, in May 2022, DWS was accused of greenwashing. The accusation is that DWS sold its financial products as more sustainable than they actually are. In the summer of 2021, the former head of sustainability at DWS, Desiree Fixler, told the Wall Street Journal: “Posturing with big statements on climate action and inclusion without the goods to back it up is really quite harmful as it prevents money and action from flowing to the right place.
How you can avoid greenwashing
As a full-service provider and certified partner of e.g. UNGC, CDP, GRI and EcoVadis, DFGE holistically deals with the calculation of carbon footprints up to the development of an ESG/climate strategy. In your activity we proceed in a scientifically sound way and thereby avoid greenwashing. For more information: Klimastrategie – DFGE – Institute for Energy, Ecology and Economy