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Greenwashing Act 3: Do it colorful!

Colorful umbrellas in front of a blue sky.

Greenwashing is sustainably harmful

Greenwashing tactics are becoming ever more sophisticated. A glance while walking through the supermarket is enough: "Environmentally friendly," "barn-raised," "climate-neutral" and many, many more words promise consumption with karma. And by far not only in the supermarket: the next flight, the favorite T-shirt or the look to one's own energy service provider: Greenwashing feels comfortable in many places these days.

And let's be honest - when doing your everyday shopping, booking a flight or switching to your next energy service provider, have you ever seriously asked yourself what actually lies behind the promised green touches as concrete actions?

Greenwashing hurts - both customers and companies. Because those who are serious about supply chain transparency hardly have a chance to score credible points with any terms in the face of over 20 years of greenwashed rhetoric.

Greenwashing is not just a question of a lack of morals. In my view, it is also always a question of a lack of competence. The basic knowledge of sustainability theory in marketing is at an illiterate level.

Jan Pechmann, Founder of BAM! In Absatzwirtschaft Green Wednesday of Vera Hermes, 15. march

EU directive sets rules for "green" advertising

Stop sign in front of trees

But it may soon be time to discover new paths: Greenwashing is to be put to an end. The EU Commission wants to bring order to marketing with green claims and greenwashing.

We want to help consumers make informed purchasing decisions and ensure that companies are rewarded for making genuine efforts to reduce their impact on nature, resource use, climate-changing emissions and pollution.

EU-Umweltkommissar Virginijus Sinkevičius (Quelle)

Terms such as "environmentally friendly," "eco-friendly," "ecological," "climate-friendly," "CO2-neutral," "energy-efficient," or "biodegradable" would come under critical scrutiny in the future. Even companies' own sustainability seals would come under suspicion. For many companies, which now define and advertise their own - hardly comprehensible - seals, this would be a hard blow to their marketing.

But it's a done deal: In the future, any claims about a product's climate friendliness must be proven. This is the draft directive presented by the EU Commission on March 22. With the help of an evaluation system based on scientific findings, the ecological footprint of products (Product Environmental Footprint, PEF) and companies (Organization Environmental Footprint, OEF) is to be measured as objectively as possible. In the case of products, the entire life cycle is to be scrutinized (source). If little CO2 is generated during production, the possibly very high consumption of water must not be ignored. Likewise, possible negative environmental effects from use must also be disclosed.

Statements about the sustainability of a product must therefore have a hand and a foot in the future. Some companies will have to take a hard look at themselves and rethink. For others, this could play right into their hands. They are no longer in danger of being lost among all the greenwashing that has been happily practiced up to now. Instead, they need to seize the opportunity and speak out.

Woman holding a megaphone in her right hand in front of the blue sky

But how? The directive entails huge amounts of data in some cases and a significantly higher verification requirement. The methodology and calculation of the PEF must be disclosed for verification. And the entire life cycle of a product can no longer be summarized in a single word.

That's good. Because that would also run counter to any claim to lived transparency. Let's try it another way.

From greenwashing to truly colorful stories

Sustainable, green issues rank high on the communications agendas of business and politics. And there is no question that ignoring these issues is akin to declaring bankruptcy in the spirit of the times. Basically, we are at a point where economics began under the popular moral philosophers of the time: Seeing economics not solely in terms of profit maximization, but as society's mandate to provide prosperity. And the concept of prosperity can no longer be realistically grasped under today's developments in the Western industrialized nations without marrying it to sustainability.

Acting sustainably as a business will have less and less to do with pushing lighthouse projects or individual seals to the front of the communications agenda. A company will only be certified as credible in terms of sustainability if it implements it holistically. And it is not the size of the step that will be decisive. But whether the step is credible for the company.

"Greenwashing" as a communication method will be degraded to a discontinued model. What people are thirsting for in their increasing "meaningful consumption" is no longer on the surface, not on a color, a seal or on a single word. It lies deeper in the history of every company that seeks its own individual path.

  • Corners and edges become more attractive here than pretty painting.

  • Admitting mistakes gains more credibility than the next triangle of values published on the "About Us" page.

  • And it will no longer be the products that have the most desirable image. But those that make the user a living narrator of his own story.

Lively storytelling? The Digital Product Passport sets new horizons in the marketing sky - click yourself in:

Mobile phone that shows the Digital Product Passport in front of a shoe

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