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Greenwashing, because on social media you can't wash appearances

Greenwashing: many companies have decided to tell how green they are but there is a huge difference between being green and doing greenwashing.


by Emanuela Zaccone *

Emanuela ZacconeOver the years, awareness of the importance of protecting the environment and the need to reconvert activities and supply chains has increased, with the aim of reducing the environmental impact. The Corporate Social Responsibility of companies has begun to make sustainability one of its focuses, while the topic has reached almost everyone, thanks also to the popularizing power of the Internet and social media. The social media for exhibit: it is not possible to lie, it is not advisable to cancel to cover up misdeeds and it is not wise to embark on proclamations without first having taken a look at the correctness of what happens in one's own home. When a few years ago the brands arrived on social media, they had to deal with a dialogical environment, regulated not by the impulse of the moment but by the need to plan contents, editorial strategies and activities of relationship with users (crisis management included).

Telling well

Many companies have thought of telling how green they were, only to come up against the reality of the facts. There is a very big difference between being green and doing greenwashing. In the first case, attention to the environmental impact and the effective remodeling of its activities in this way guides company decisions and changes the characteristics of the brand. Greenwashing, on the other hand, is a façade: these are deceptive advertisements designed to make people believe that there is indeed an attention to the factors mentioned above, when they are (almost) completely ignored. The Greenwashing Index has been working for years precisely to lay bare these campaigns and has the merit of doing so not only from a destructive point of view, but also by enhancing the brands that behave correctly and, above all, have undertaken a real change of course, perhaps after a few initial error. Another strong point: it is a crowdsourced platform, so everyone can contribute to identifying and collecting cases. Already in 2010, Matthew Yeoman in the Guardian wrote that social media and sustainability have much in common, as both are built on three pillars (transparency, ethics and innovation) and both create and receive value based on the ability to create communities.

What the big brands do

Not a case that eBay, a few years ago, has entered into an agreement with Patagonia focused on garment recycling or that Renault has also given its employees a voice with Sustainable Mobility. If users are attentive to these issues, on the other hand, why not involve them? Some of the best crowdsourcing activities of ideas are for example those carried out by Unilever with Sustainable Living Lab and IBM with Smarter Planet. And what is the role of those who work for the environment? Greenpeace has transferred online the same attention and passion that characterizes it offline. Thus, if Levis has accepted the criticisms due to the pollution of the rivers generated by the waste of its plants in Asia and has actually changed course, Nestl instead focused on protecting the brand, completely ignoring the accusations. In fact, in 2010, Greenpeace launched a campaign to attack the company for the damage related to the effects of their rainforest activities. Users have begun to use a modified brand logo (with the words Nestl Killer instead of Nestl Kitkat) which was immediately criticized by the multinational. I leave you to imagine the impact on users of a stance aimed at giving greater importance to the protection of the brand rather than to the damage caused to flora and fauna in the rainforest. In short, social media users are not watching. This applies to every area, even more to issues that are dear to many. Transparency, ethics and innovation. Outside these tracks, only the social environment is polluted.

* Digital Entrepreneur, Co-founder and Social Media Strategist of TOK.tvHas over 7 years of experience as a consultant and lecturer in Social Media Analysis and Strategy for large companies, startups and universities. In 2011 he completed a PhD among universities of Bologna and Nottingham with a thesis on Social Media Marketing and Social TV.