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Greenwashing advertising sometimes misses the mark

By Dashni Vilakazi, Managing Director at The MediaShop

Greenwashing is essentially promoting products and services that are good for the planet and its people – a noble cause at first glance. Sustainability and greenwashing in advertising is ubiquitous, wielding a huge amount of power and influence.

I believe that all products and services should have sustainability at its heart, and we all need to be more aware of how we as consumers, and as marketers, influence and affect the planet and its people.

Green Brands, an international, independent and autonomous brand evaluation company with offices around the world, says that Greenwashing is a bubble about to burst. Consider the actions in Europe where many companies are burning fossil fuels to the detriment of the environment.

In South Africa, companies that are getting it right include Earthbound Winery, a business making organic products that are pesticide free and where their workers are able to share in the company’s success and decision-making protocols. That’s an example of a real change maker. Lavender Hill is another business doing it right for the earth and for their staff. They produce, as their name suggests, lavender-based products where part of the funds from the result of sales go back into the community called Lavender Hill that need a good level of support. That means more money for schooling, clothing and food.

Can all businesses get it right? Yes, absolutely but I’d advise caution to brands that are touting themselves as eco-champions when they’re not. One sector that comes to mind is the fashion industry, they often make claims like utilising energy efficient lighting, and I have to wonder if that isn’t just a bit of a spin.

Some brands have such a large focus on their “green glow”, when in reality, their actual efforts in climate change and eco-friendly marketing are quite small and could be damaging to their reputation if it purports to be doing more for the environment than they actually are.

I’d suggest that marketers and brands focus more on sustainable development in their products and services. The international Global Golds as they’re known, include deliverables like clean water, sanitisation, poverty alleviation, gender equality and so on. These are tactics that companies can actively implement to be better providers and suppliers in our society.

Consumers will warm to businesses that do this authentically and transparently. We’re seeing a great green re-set!

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