‘Greenwashing’ (also called ‘green whitewash’) is the practice of companies claiming that their products are environmentally friendly, whilst not specifically validating or explaining their claims.
Greenwashing is increasingly used as a ‘feel good’ mechanism, even in the outdoor industry, whereby general green claims are made, without clear explanation about what the claims actually mean in terms of environmental benefits. Some outdoor companies talk at length in their mission statements about how they are concerned about the planet, yet provide no data or information about what they are actually doing to reduce their impact. Some support conservation initiatives rather than move towards cleaner and more ethical production.
All of us are struggling with concepts of what it means to be ‘sustainable’ and fair. We need to allow space for companies to learn as they go. But we should be challenging them on the practise of greenwashing where it does occur. Apart from anything else, successful greenwashing reduces the advantage for companies that are serious in attempting to reduce their environmental impact or improving conditions for workers, as it muddies the water on these topics and suggests that there is more forward movement in the industry than there actually is. Greenwash can imply almost everyone is trying to do the ‘right thing’ – when clearly they are not, thereby reducing the advantage for the companies who actually are.
In time I aim to have extra info on greenwashing available here.