Greenwash Watch: Beyond the Marketing Spin


Lucy Aitkin writes an excellent article in the Guardian about greenwashing, "a practice which receives an arresting definition in a new book, John Grant's The Green Marketing Manifesto. In it the co-founder of St Luke's advertising agency writes: "You can't put a lettuce in the window of a butcher's shop and declare that you are now 'turning vegetarian'."

She looks at oil companies like BP and Shell, who "talk about alternative energies and offsetting, but this distracts from the real issue because their industry is about sucking oil out of the ground. There's still a long way to go before customers understand that we all rely on natural resources to supply us with the products that we use in our everyday lives."

Or ditch the plastic bag campaigns. "Until the big supermarkets reduce the amount of energy used in their stores, minimise the distance that food travels and review their relationship with farmers, saving a few plastic bags is just window dressing."Lucy concludes with some Green Marketing Highs and Lows:



The lowdown: To coincide with its opening at St Pancras International on November 14, Eurostar's Tread Lightly campaign committed it to carbon-neutral journeys. It plans to reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 25% per traveller journey by 2012 and is offsetting the remainder.

JG: "Eurostar was already 10 times greener than flying. But it went out of its way to put right any detail that was less than admirable."

Tony Juniper: "A fantastic first step which positions its sustainability efforts at the heart of the company's operations."



The lowdown: A magazine ad for the Lexus RX400h was headlined High performance. Low emissions. Zero Guilt. The world's first high-performance hybrid SUV. Category-leading low CO2 emissions. The ASA upheld the complaints it received about the ad's misleading claims.

JG: "Lexus is not really to blame; its agency got it badly wrong. It makes you wonder if the case is hardening for working with specialist sustainability creative agencies that actually 'get it'."

Tony Juniper: "Not only was this ad an example of greenwash, it also showed utter disrespect and contempt for consumers. Even after it was ruled unacceptable by the ASA, I still saw it all over the bloody place."


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