Environmental protection issues have become an important topic for years socially and politically. Information on supporting environmental protection can be received no matter you are walking on the street or visiting any media. Protect the trees, save the ocean, bring your own shopping bags, support recycling, etc. Environmental awareness has been raised among global citizens. Increasingly, customers are paying more for environmental sustainability. Environmental performance has become a point of social responsibility for many corporations. Many companies also respond to actions that support environmental protection, including the implement plastic bag levies, replacing plastic bags with paper bags, and funding environmental groups. However, are they really acting to protect the environment? Are they really eco-friendly? The answer is obvious.
Greenwash – verb: the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service (Priesnitz, 2008).
Greenwash is “the act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service” (Priesnitz, 2008). Greenwashing is flooding around us. Not all companies are as environmentally responsible as they advertise themselves to be. Tempo, a tissue paper brand popular in Hong Kong. They cut trees from Amazon’s tropical forest to make paper towels. Tempo have been holding plant tree activities for many years, to meet the market needs of “green goods” in order to keep on surviving. Tempo once said on a Facebook post, “We have been actively responding to environmental protection. Our company has planted more than 1 million trees every year to contribute to the earth” (Tempo HK, 2013). They promote such “green activities” through television advertisements and on social platforms, in an attempt to make consumers think that Tempo is a company that supports environmental protection and keeps on purchase their products. A finding mentioned that “when ads use nature imagery along with false claims, consumers fall victim to the virtual nature experience, which exerts stronger effects on attitudes toward ads and brands than greenwashing perceptions” (Schmuck, Matthes & Naderer, 2018). The finding stated that customers are being misled by “green advertising“ like Tempo misled customers into thinking that buying their products is equal to supporting them in planting trees. Instead, more demands make more production. More purchases just make Tempo cut more trees and make more tissues to meet market demands.
Customers also have the responsibility to avoid being misled by the commercial strategies. If consumers can use social media smartly, they can avoid being misled by these marketing strategies. Social media platforms allow customers to exchange information and discuss the “green advertising”. Eco-labels overwhelm and confuse rather than enlighten consumers Information technology is changing the modern life, especially social media (Harbaugh, Maxwell, & Rousillon, 2011). Through social media, citizens and consumers can achieve better information sharing. The emergence of social media will reduce corporate greenwash (Lyon & Montgomery, 2013). By improving the quality of corporate environmental communications, it is more efficient in reducing greenwashing.
Lots of companies created an illusion through the media that “It is so easy to protect the earth.” In fact, they are greenwashing themselves as well as the customers. People just want to be an environmentalist in a cheap way to respond to the “trend” of eco-friendly. There are still lots of companies claimed they are eco-friendly, they are making green-products. However, let’s have a deeper thinking: Where can those products produced in large quantities? Factories. What drives these factories? Electricity. Where does the factory’s electricity come from? Probably Coal burning. The use of electricity is already polluting the environment but not “green”. Therefore, consumers should have the social responsibility to utilize social media and diminish the chance of being greenwashed by the “green companies”.
- Harbaugh, R., Maxwell, J. W., & Rousillon, B. (2011). Label confusion: The groucho
effect of uncertain standards. Management Science, 57, 1512–1527.
- Lyon, T. P., & Montgomery, A. W. (2013). Tweetjacked: The Impact of Social Media on Corporate Greenwash. Journal of Business Ethics, 118(4), 747-757. doi:10.1007/s10551-013-1958-x
- Priesnitz, W. (2008, May 1). Greenwash: When the green is just veneer: Greenwash–verb: The act of misleading consumers regarding the environmental practices of a company or the environmental benefits of a product or service. Natural Life.
- Schmuck, D., Matthes, J., & Naderer, B. (2018). Misleading Consumers with Green Advertising? An Affect–Reason–Involvement Account of Greenwashing Effects in Environmental Advertising. Journal of Advertising, 47(2), 127-145. doi:10.1080/00913367.2018.1452652
- Tempo HK. (2013, March 15). Tempo Hong Kong. Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/Tempo.hk/photos/a.198796960140728.45036.143477305672694/556393567714397/?type=3&theater