Image: Tiffany Bailey / Wikimedia Commons
Image: Tiffany Bailey / Wikimedia Commons

Greenwashing: eco deception

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At university, we are encouraged to think critically. We are fortunate enough as students to exist in an environment where we can explore and analyse political and economic issues, and have the freedom to express our own opinions on subjects that interest us.

Has the issue of greenwashing, however, pulled the wool over students’ eyes? Even at a top university like Warwick, the environmental actions of some organisations may escape the same scrutiny other issues receive.

One only has to remember the BP oil spill in 2010 to know that energy companies aren’t exactly Mother Nature’s best friends…

For those of you who do not know what greenwashing is, it’s essentially when a company promotes its business activities as ‘green’ and environmentally friendly, when in reality they are not. The problem here is that the issue does not present itself clearly and it requires us to be critical and evaluate situations.

The obvious culprits that come to mind when you think of greenwashing are energy companies. If an energy company claims they are helping to save the planet, many would be sceptical. One only has to remember the BP oil spill in 2010 to know that energy companies aren’t exactly Mother Nature’s best friends.

Brands on our very own high street may also be guilty of creating a false ‘green halo’…

As students, it is perhaps easier to see these energy companies as out of our sphere of influence. There is almost a feeling they are bigger than we are, and that there is not much we can do as individuals to stop them from treating the planet so badly.

However, when we dig a little deeper, we can see it’s not just the big energy corporations that are deceiving us. Brands on our very own high street may also be guilty of creating a false ‘green halo’.

I truly believed The Body Shop was one of the few outlets on the high street that was trying to good in the world…

And the worst part is that we often don’t see through the façade and the deceptive ethical marketing. Before researching for this article, I truly believed The Body Shop was one of the few outlets on the high street that was trying to good in the world. ‘AGAINST ANIMAL TESTING’ is stamped all over their products, they’ve recently introduced an entirely biodegradable shower gel, and their company’s ethos is to ‘enrich our planet’.

On the surface, The Body Shop appears to be eco-conscious and, in fairness to the company, it is probably doing a lot more than their competitors in their attempts to operate ethically. However, The Body Shop is not without fault. It is owned by L’Oreal, a company notorious for its animal testing.

By being conscious about what we buy, and who from, we can make little steps in helping the planet.

As well as this obvious conflict of interest, The Body Shop also receives 90% of its palm oil from a company called Daabon. Daabon has been openly criticised by The Guardian for its harsh and unethical methods of gaining land; in 2009 the company forcibly evicted a group of peasant farmers off of 320km of land north of Bogota to grow palm trees.

It is important that we, as students, think critically and consciously about our roles as consumers. By being conscious about what we buy, and who from, we can make little steps in helping the planet.

At the end of the day, big businesses only care about making money, and if the planet gets in their way, companies won’t bat an eyelid as long as they are generating profit. Therefore, it’s up to us as individuals to take responsibility, and find out which companies are really green, and which ones are merely painted as so.

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