The Most Popular Greenwashing Strategies (from groceries to tourism)


You have probably seen a lot of green products in stores. It might have crossed your mind that you never know how true this claims is. There is new marketing gimmick nowadays – the greenwashing strategy. Companies try to ‘greenwash’ customers into buying their products which are not actually green or eco friendly. These companies are very smart, but you can be smarter. Here are some tips for you to recognize some popular greenwashing strategies, which you can see through the next time you ponder over a ‘green product’:

8 popular greenwashing strategies 

1. It doesn’t define clearly the ‘greenness’

greenwashing-strategyA product that claims to be eco friendly (which really sounds good) but does not clearly define exactly how it is ‘green’. For example, a product could be described as non-toxic and that it does not have any hazardous chemicals. But this claim is true only in one context, and would be completely false green claims in another. This is because the product is not safe to injest. Another example is ‘radiant barrier’ paint which is advertised as having a high R-value, but the manufacturer forgets to mention that it is effective only when applied on NASA spacecraft, which see huge changes of temperature. This is one of the popular greenwashing strategies you have to be careful of.

2. Green through association

These days, to identify greenwashing tactics, you have to be suspicious and keep your eyes open. Some companies are so clever, that they do not claim to be green in words, and their product is not eco friendly either. But they will try to convince you that the products are green, by including photos of beautiful natural settings. They may name their products in such a way that you will unconsciously associate the company/products as being sustainable. Be aware of these popular greenwashing strategies and save yourself a ton of money.

3. Unverified claims

greenwashing-strategyA company which is faking to be sustainable will make environmental claims but will not provide the necessary proof to substantiate the claims. For example, a company may claim to use recycled material in their manufacturing process, but will not give the required details of how much and what has been used. They can get their product certified if it is really green, but a company making false green claims will not have any certification. Not revealing specifics is one of the most popular greenwashing strategies being used today.

4. One claim leads to another unverified claim

A company advertises a valid claim about their product which is actually true, but also claims another green attribute, which could be true, but the company has not conducted a separate test for that. For example, a company sells mold resistant paint, which is true, but then they also claim that the paint would have a great effect on the health of the residents (which they have not checked for specifically).

5. Not publishing the entire life cycle

greenwashing-strategyThis is definitely one of the most popular greenwashing strategies you’ll come across. A company might advertise and sell a product which contains recycled material, which improves the product’s eco profile. The company however, either out of ignorance or as a marketing strategy, fails to declare the manufacturing process, which has a lot of carbon emissions and uses conventional energy, or uses binding agents harmful for the environment and human health.

Another example is that of paper, and this is one example everyone can relate to. Using paper is not always eco friendly, even though it might come from sustainably harvested forests. You have to also consider other environmental issues, such as use of chlorine or bleaching and gas emissions during the production of paper. If any green paper/ paper product fails to mention the details of the production process, you can be sure that it is a clear case of greenwashing.

6. The big switch

Some companies faking to be sustainable will develop just one sustainable product in their entire product range. They will bombard the media with their ‘green’ innovation, and win accolades for their eco friendliness. But their other products remain the same without any changes whatsoever. Besides the company produces so little of the ‘green product’ and price it very high too, that people are often forced to go for their non-green products.

So you have to be careful while purchasing an eco friendly product from a company which is otherwise polluting the environment as much as other companies. You should do some research to identify greenwashing tactics and then make the right purchase.

7. Rallying to create lower standards


It is very hard sometimes to spot the actual green products due to the proliferation of popular greenwashing strategies. Especially, if it’s not just one company, but an entire industry which conspires to lower the green standards, so that they can meet them. In the US, the logging industry came under fire for the environmental damage caused by logging, but instead of improving processes to meet the rigorous standards, the industry banded together to create a standard which was much less stringent.

8. Lying outright

In this case, unscrupulous companies do not hesitate to make false claims or vague claims which are bound to be misunderstood by you. For example, the term ‘All Natural’. It is a very ubiquitous term and is used by many companies. Formaldehyde, mercury, arsenic and uranium are naturally occurring substances and you know how poisonous these are. So terms such as ‘All Natural’ can be applied to any product, without the product being natural at all.

Almost all companies claim to be CFC free – and it is a true claim, as CFC is banned by the government anyway. So it is a claim which is not really helpful when you’re looking for eco friendly HVAC systems.

Greenwashing in tourism

Greenwashing in tourismIn tourism, sustainability claims are often hyped by travel agents and organizations benefiting from tourism. Here there is something about questioning the validity of certain terms pertaining to tourism like:

  • Responsible
  • Sustainable
  • Ethical
  • Conscious and other terms assisting the local community and environment brought about by methods honored in tourism.

Greenwashing in tourism is now a rampant practice among key players; it is a marketing exercise to fatten the bottom line. Drawing tourists is sometimes achieved with unethical practices. But for common tourists not trained enough to recognize symptoms of fake tourism, it is a growing threat. It would always fall as a trap to capture their fancy and desires.

Greenwashing in tourism, an underlying menace:

eco-friendly womanTourists are often under a fake notion as if their presence is contributing towards the welfare of the tourist destination they are visiting. To the contrary, tourism is doing more harm than good to the local environment. At least, falsely promoted green tourism is not delivering goods it was supposed to.

Greenwashing in tourism is built on unscrupulous premises with intent to swindle the tourists with eco-friendly claims linked with tourism itself. The concept is far too convoluted for ordinary tourists to comprehend the significance.

It embraces a range of functional units benchmarked with specific targets involving energy conservation, waste management, reduction of carbon footprints, contribution towards the local economy, preservation of environment, and other eco-friendly measures. Whether procedural mapping of a specific itinerary is aimed towards achieving these targets is quite arduous for identification.

As a source of help, many online agencies exist that point out the pros and cons of a travel plan. They ascertain with a fair degree of transparency if tourism to a destination is being promoted keeping travel sustainability in view. Or is it just another instance of fake tourism focused on profiteering rather than subscribing towards local community?

Accreditation and certification in tourism:

Accreditation and certification in tourismAs a way of justification to judge the trustworthiness of sustainable tourism commitments, some organizations follow a methodical approach. They go in length exploring if greenwashing in tourism is being employed to create pseudo value of a tourism project. These organizations have a standard litmus test procedure to check how well specific tourism is performing against the established benchmark.

On the basis of a thorough appraisal, green certificates are issued that turn into guidelines for tourists. It becomes a matter of choice for tourists to go for a travel proposal or not – based upon the strength of the certificate.

Benefits of such accreditation are that the certifying authority can create a norm for tourism ethics. These norms back the industry players up in their effort to incorporate an element of sustainability in tourism projects.

The disadvantages are, this certification is not mandatory. Naturally, they do not match up to rewards compared to costs, efforts and time devoted. They do not come with the force of an audit, they are largely optional.

Greenwashing in tourism, a pandemic bird’s eye view:

stop global warming and reverse climate changeThe murky shadow of greenwashing in tourism is emerging with an early warning signal across the globe. The dire need to wake up to unethical practices is imperative. And so are the needs to explore avenues of restitution before it gets too late. Greenwashed tourism will be causing irreversible damage to the environment in near future.

However, there is a note of optimism in current scenario. Many organizations and NGOs are becoming aware of damages greenwashing in tourism can deliver. Green slogans like preventing falling biodiversity, global warming, over population and defilement of environment have been burning issues.

They have been true eye-openers in our journey to spotting greenwashing in tourism. The endeavor to condemn and stay clear of such tourism practice motives will be a move in right direction. Our struggle to turn the universe into a better, safer and healthier place to live in is the need of the hour.

Cues of greenwashed tourism:

food for tourists sourced from local farmsFollowing guidelines would help a novice not acquainted with nuances of sustainable tourism and identification of foul play:

  • Ask what proportion of profit earned by the tour organizers are devoted to the upliftment of local communities.
  • What are the steps taken to conserve local flora and fauna?
  • What is the annual volume of tourist visit? Is there a limit to the number to control pressure of tourism on the environment?
  • Are local people employed and food for tourists sourced from local farms?
  • What is the carbon emission policy? Is there any effort to bring down carbon footprints?
  • Is the tourism company involved in community-based projects?
  • Does the travel company hold a green certificate from a competent authority?

Sustainable tourism efforts should have a holistic approach. A sincere endeavor by one segment in the industry can be frustrated by the callous attitude of another segment of industry.

Vague words have no place in sustainable tourism. Transparency is expected in connection with each term promised to endorse the green spirit. Technical jargons to avoid responsibility and avoid litigation should be booked.

It is a fact that for a travel company to go green is time-consuming. However, a tourist can always ask when did the journey start? From its current performance, it can be adjudged if the travel company is going slowly towards realizing green goals.

Examples of green traveling sins:

There are a number of examples in tourism where going green commitment is either violated or attended with half-hearted efforts that defeats the primary objective. Here we go:

A latent trade-off:

A claim to hype eco-friendly procedures followed could be based upon a single feature. Yet the green effort can miss out some other features that badly need attention as well. For sustainable tourism, we are talking whole and not a part.

Lack of proof:

serve organic foodA green certification is not always available. A supposedly green hotel can cheat on its claim to serve organic food. Who is present to vouch for the claim with corroborative evidence?


This stands for fake claims on sustainable tourism. It is easy to misinform tourists mixing lie with some traces of truth.


Travel operatorTravel operators might be doing well to go green on one aspect of tourism that has no significance to you. Irrelevant green efforts don’t pay off when tourism industry as a whole is considered.

Upholding false labels:

It is pointless to have high regards for tourism products falsely claiming to have certification from the competent authority.

Final Words

Greenwashing is an unhealthy trend which most companies have caught on to. As millions of consumers like you want to buy products which do not harm the environment, companies do not have genuine green products to fulfill the demand. Unscrupulous companies do not hesitate to make green claims to sell their products but alert consumers can thwart them and slowly but gradually, actually force companies to start manufacturing green products.

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