Corporate Greenwashers Trick Consumers

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Originally posted Oct. 21, 2007
by Jane Han on The Korea Times

Toyota bloomed with an angelic, eco-friendly image
with its hybrid Prius, however, on the flip side, it simultaneously
rolls out one of the market’s biggest gas-guzzling SUVs. Hypocritical?
Not surprising, say environmentalists, as they label these growing
numbers of all-show-no-change corporations as "greenwashers.”

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A pejorative term derived from “whitewashing,” the word was
first coined in the early 1990s to define corporate actions that paint
themselves environmentally responsible to mask their wrongdoings.

These firms _ led by car makers and energy companies _ generally
use more money and time playing up their green image, rather than
actually spending on the eco-friendly practice.

And among the pack, the world’s largest and most profitable auto
manufacturer, Toyota, has recently been under an unwanted spotlight for
opposing a new U.S. senate legislation that requires strict new fuel
efficiency standards.

The maker that has freshly beat out GM as the world’s top seller
this year has reportedly been hit with thousands of e-mails protesting
against its backward move, but it goes on the defense claiming, “ It’s
not easy being green.”

Observers have been guessing that the company _ already branded as
the greenest car maker _ wants to decelerate inventing energy efficient
vehicles, which it already tops, while keeping mileage room to sell
giant pickup trucks, like the Tundra.

Despite all the environment-caring fuss, it’s, still, all about the business, experts say.

Corporate goliath GE’s company-wide “Ecomagination” initiative,
which develops high-efficiency incandescent light bulbs, has also been
under criticism, as environmentalists argue that GE should cut
incandescent bulb production altogether and focus on fluorescent bulbs
instead.

Another major greenwasher, GM, has been noted as an award-winning
deceiver for depicting an SUV on a melting polar ice, happily
co-existing with artic species, which ironically, are what the car is
killing through carbon emissions.

“A lot of companies are taking small steps toward environmental
sustainability and their marketing departments are turning them into
huge steps,” Lloyd Alter, a Toronto-based sustainable architect and
developer who writes for the environmental blog Treehugger.

Locally, S-Oil, the country’s third-biggest oil refiner, was scrutinized for campaigning,
“Nature is delighted when you pump S-Oil.” Now, the company is
attempting to reinvent its image as one close to nature by using the
colors yellow and green.

Samsung’s SilverCare Washing Machine also caught
environmentalists’ attention for the validity of its true eco-friendly
measures.

Although the washer hypes up its use of silver ions to disinfect
clothing by using cold water, which consumes less energy, activists
have questioned whether it is a genuine tree-hugger.

“Silver ore has to be mined, and extracting silver and
subsequently melting it down to make metallic silver is extremely
energy intensive, so how much is really being saved in the long run?”
said a July article in a publication of the National Geographic.

British Petroleum, Coca-Cola Company and Starbucks are among the
other frequently mentioned greenwashers that are being closely watched
by eco-warriors worldwide.

As “going green” shot up as the marketing world’s current
buzzword, experts warn consumers to be wary of greenwashers who may be
using advertising tricks to win the hearts of true caregivers of nature.

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