Greenwashing 101


Ensure your company isn't damaging customers' trust by greenwashing – making false claims that your company or products are environmentally friendly.

•  Greenwashing is when a company purports to be environmentally conscious for marketing purposes but actually isn't making any notable sustainability efforts. •  Companies can greenwash even when they have good intentions. •  As a result of greenwashing, most American consumers do not believe company claims about their sustainability practices.

You've probably heard of whitewashing at least once in the corporate world. Whitewashing is when an organization covers up or glosses over scandalous information by presenting a biased representation of the facts. But greenwashing isn't nearly as well known. Greenwashing is when an organization spends more time and money on marketing itself as environmentally friendly than on actually minimizing its environmental impact. It's a deceitful marketing gimmick intended to mislead consumers who prefer to buy goods and services from environmentally conscious brands.

What is greenwashing?


Inside the Controversy That’s Divided the Carbon Offsets Market

By Alastair Marsh and Ben Elgin 04/13/24
When the biggest funders and promoters of the $2 billion carbon offsets market assembled in London last month, the gathering was billed as a series of technical discussions on subjects such as emissions accounting.
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What About Nature Risk?

By Manuela Andreoni 03/14/24
Reporting the corporate risks of climate change is increasingly becoming a required part of doing business. This month, the Securities and Exchange Commission made such disclosures mandatory for public companies in the United States, following…
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Shell abandons 2035 emissions target and weakens 2030 goal

By Josh Gabbatiss 03/14/24
Shell has abandoned a key climate target for 2035 and weakened another goal for 2030, according to its latest “energy transition strategy”. The oil major has “updated” its target to cut the total “net carbon…
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Shell Weakens 2030 Emissions-Cut Target in Move Away From Clean Power

By Laura Hurst 03/14/24
Shell Plc weakened its targets for carbon-emissions cuts in the coming decade, while maintaining the ambition of becoming a net zero company by 2050.
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The most epic (and literal) gaslighting of all time

By Bill MCKibben 03/05/24
I’m listening to John Coltrane through my headphones as I type, in an effort to stay calm enough that I don’t just start sputtering. You might want to do likewise as you read.
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Exxon CEO blames public for failure to fix climate change

By Saul Elbein 02/28/24
The world isn’t on track to meet its climate goals — and it’s the public’s fault, a leading oil company CEO told journalists. Exxon Mobil Corp. CEO Darren Woods told editors from Fortune that the…
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‘New Paradigm of Greenwashing’: Global Net-Zero Finance Initiative Takes Worrying Step Backwards

By Adele Shraiman 12/04/23
In recent years, pressure has mounted on the financial sector to take responsibility for its role in propping up the polluting industries driving the climate crisis. In response, financial institutions — from investment banks to…
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At talks on cutting plastics pollution, plastic credits are on the table. What are they?

By Carlos Mureithi and Jennifer Mcdormett 11/18/23
Two groups that want reduced plastics production published a report Friday highly critical of plastic credits, calling them a flawed tool that won’t help with worldwide pollution from the material.
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A Guide to Six Greenwashing Terms Big Ag Is Bringing to COP28

By Rachel Sherrington and Hazel Healy 09/21/23
Agriculture, which is responsible for over one third of the world’s emissions, will be under the spotlight at the upcoming COP28 global climate summit in Dubai.
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Corporate Nature Restoration Results Murky at Best, Greenwashed at Worst – Inside Climate News

By Bob Berwyn 09/07/23
Many of the world’s largest companies have voluntarily planted trees and taken other actions to meet climate goals and restore ecosystems, but a “near total” lack of transparency makes it impossible to assess the quality…
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House Republicans propose planting a trillion trees as they move away from climate change denial

By Stephen Groves 07/18/23
As Speaker Kevin McCarthy visited a natural gas drilling site in northeast Ohio to promote House Republicans’ plan to sharply increase domestic production of energy from fossil fuels last month, the signs of rising global…
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Fake Twitter profiles, Wikipedia editing and PR battles: Inside the push to greenwash the COP28 climate summit

By Ivana Kottasová 07/18/23
The optics of a major oil-producing country organizing the world’s most important climate conference, and appointing an oil company CEO to lead it, are not lost on anyone – including, it seems, the hosts: the…
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Red light on ‘greenwashing’? US regulatory agency takes fresh look at deceptive climate claims

By Tom Kertscher   07/17/23  
With increasing attention on climate change, the U.S. government is targeting "greenwashing" — companies’ use of false or deceptive marketing to make themselves appear more environmentally friendly than they are.
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The fossil fuel industry is donating hundreds of millions to university climate and energy research

By YCC Team   05/24/23  
Fossil fuel companies profit from the world’s dependence on coal, oil, and gas. Some climate activists are concerned that some of these same companies fund university research about climate and energy. “I don’t think there…
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Documents reveal how fossil fuel industry created, pushed anti-ESG campaign

By Saul Elbein   05/18/23  
The recent Republican push against sustainable investing likely originated in a backroom campaign by the fossil fuel industry in states like West Virginia and Texas.
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How corporations use greenwashing to convince you they are battling climate change

By Tom Lyon   05/15/23  
Many corporations claim their products are “green-friendly.” But how do you know if what they’re selling is truly eco-safe? SciLine interviewed Thomas Lyon, professor of sustainable science, technology and commerce at the University of Michigan,…
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Time to toughen up the rules on greenwashing

The Federal Trade Commission has an opportunity to change the landscape for climate and environmental claims in corporate advertising. “Sustainable,” “green,” “low carbon,” “net zero” — claims of environmental consciousness seem to be everywhere we…
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‘A sea of misinformation’: FTC to address industry greenwashing complaints

By Tom Perkins   05/04/23  
The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is taking aim at greenwashing by big business with an update to its “Green Guides”, which would give the agency stronger legal cases against polluters by clarifying when companies’…
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Factbox: What are the U.S. Green Guides and can they stamp out ‘greenwashing’?

By Valerie Volcovici   04/27/23  
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will weigh major changes for the first time in a decade to its Green Guides, a set of standards for companies making environmental claims, as it sifts through thousands…
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A leading private equity firm claimed to be a climate leader – while increasing emissions

By Nina Lakhani   04/27/23  
The Carlyle Group’s 2011-22 greenhouse gas footprint was roughly equivalent to Alaska’s ‘carbon bomb’ Willow drilling projectA leading private equity firm that claims to be an industry climate leader in fact almost doubled its average…
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Former House Oversight chairwoman breaks silence on Big Oil probe

By Maxine Joselow   03/08/23  
Good morning and welcome to The Climate 202! Happy International Women’s Day and happy hump day. Today we’re reading about why airlines want to charge you for flying on french-fry oil. 🍟
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The world is finally cracking down on ‘greenwashing’

By Emma Marris   03/01/23  
Let’s say you want to buy a T-shirt and you want your investment to be as environmentally sustainable as possible—after all, clothing production generates 8 to 10 percent of global carbon emissions. How should you…
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Exxon drops its algae ruse

By Emily Sanders   02/13/23  
Fat on record profits, Exxon is abandoning a notorious effort to convince the public it was working on climate solutions.
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Complaint requesting an investigation into apparent greenwashing by Shell plc

Global Witness writes to share its concern that Shell plc (“Shell”) has filed potentially misleading
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Google let Daily Wire advertise on ‘climate change is a hoax’ searches

By Geoff Dembicki   01/27/23  
Exclusive: Data shared by Center for Countering Digital Hate shows Ben Shapiro’s site bought ads on climate crisis denial search terms
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Big Oil’s false advertising is not free speech

By Emily Sanders   01/24/23  
“Big Oil peddled the big lie,” U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said last week following the release of a new study showing Exxon’s acute scientific understanding of climate change preceded its public denial. Facing ever-mounting…
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How dark money groups led Ohio to redefine gas as ‘green energy’

By Maxine Joselow   01/17/23  
Conservative groups helped Ohio lawmakers push the narrative that the fuel is clean, documents show. They are taking their campaign to other states.
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Exxon’s climate research accurately projected global warming

By Andrew Freedman   01/12/23  
Exxon scientists have been at the forefront of climate change research using computer models, the study published in the journal Science shows. According to the study, between 63% and 83% of the climate projections reported…
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The new soldiers in propane’s fight against climate action: television stars

By Hiroko Tabuchi   01/11/23  
An industry group is spending millions of dollars to push back against efforts to move heating away from oil and gas....
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Big oil is behind conspiracy to deceive public

By Nina Lakhani   12/20/22  
Lawyer in a civil lawsuit launched by towns in hurricane-hit Puerto Rico describes why it is using laws used to target mob bossesThe same racketeering legislation used to bring down mob bosses, motorcycle gangs, football…
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Opinion: “I was really struck by the lack of introspection”

By David Wallace-Wells   12/15/22  
Last week, a House investigation into Big Oil profiteering and greenwashing released its latest report — the result of more than a year of research, subpoenas and hearings. Among other things, the latest report makes…
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Whistleblower: Enviva claim of ‘being good for the planet… all nonsense’

By Justin Catanoso   12/05/22  
The operator of a Tigercat tractor used its claw-like arm to skillfully scoop up what just days before had been a sizable old oak, as the clear-cut of a thickly wooded 52-acre (21-hectare) site in…
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Study touting hydrogen — a technology favored by gas firms — was funded by gas interests, e-mails show

By Shabrina Shankman   11/17/22  
A study by researchers at UMass Lowell on hydrogen's potential seemed innocuous enough. But hundreds of pages of e-mail correspondence now ...
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H&M Hit With Second Greenwashing Lawsuit

By Alexandra Harrell   11/11/22  
The Swedish fast-fashion giant canceled its “Conscious Choice” collection in September after a 12-year run following a reprimand from the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets for employing vague and unsubstantiated terms that could mislead…
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United Nations Urges Companies to Stop Greenwashing

By Eduardo Garcia   11/10/22  
The United Nations this week launched a highly-anticipated report urging companies to stop issuing bogus net-zero targets that amount to greenwashing.
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A Checklist to Tell If Your Portfolio Is Guilty of Greenwashing

By Jacqueline Poh   11/10/22  
The boom in so-called ESG investing has been accompanied by a sharp rise in complaints about greenwashing -- exaggerations or misleading statements about environmental claims. It’s a rise driven by the so-called “greenium” -- the…
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UN experts demand crackdown on greenwashing of net zero pledges

By Adam Morton   11/08/22  
A UN group set up to crack down on the greenwashing of net zero pledges by industry and government has called for “red lines” to stop support for new fossil fuel exploration and overuse of…
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UN panel lays out red lines against greenwashing

By Andrew Freedman   11/08/22  
A UN panel rolled out a host of guidelines that would define credible net zero emissions targets and set out checklists for companies and cities to meet. The big picture: The report, which was delivered…
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Fueling Obstruction

By Rob Galbraith and Others   11/02/22  
Clarification: The original map of New Yorkers for Affordable Energy in this report listed Consolidated Edison as a member of New Yorkers for Affordable Energy. We’ve changed the map to clarify that while Consolidated Edison…
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Corporate pushback against climate action is getting desperate

By Thomas Hale   09/28/22  
As net zero commitments reshape the world economy, and as the impacts of climate change accelerate, climate politics is getting existential. Vulnerable communities are fighting to survive. This month, one-third of Pakistan, a country of…
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Three Congressional Hearings on Climate Disinfo Bring New Industry Documents to Light

PR firms are paid to engage in unethical tactics that intimidate and silence Americans who are exercising their rights to support actions that combat climate change wealthy and powerful corporate entities are dragging citizens and…
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Internal documents cast doubt on Big Oil climate promises

By Rachel Frazin   09/15/22  
Internal documents from major oil companies released by Democrats on the House Oversight Committee appear to cast doubt on their supposed climate and green energy commitments
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Yvon Chouinard Just Gave Patagonia Away to Help the Environment

By Katherene Martinko   09/15/22  
Yvon Chouinard no longer owns Patagonia. Nearly 50 years after founding the enormously successful apparel company, now worth around $3 billion, the 83-year-old came up with an unusual solution to ensure that it continues in…
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Oil Executives Privately Contradicted Public Statements on Climate, Files Show

By Hiroko Tabuchi   09/14/22  
The documents, subpoenaed in a House investigation of climate disinformation, show company leaders contravening industry commitments....
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Exxon The Road Not Taken

This nine-part history of Exxon’s engagement with the emerging science of climate change is the result of an eight months-long investigation conducted in 2015. The stories span four decades, and are based on primary sources,…
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If there’s one problem with ‘ExxonKnew’, it’s that it was too effective. Utilities knew, too!

Ever since the award-winning 2015 series from Inside Climate News, the "ExxonKnew" campaign(s) to hold fossil fuel companies accountable for the disinformation and propaganda they spread as part of the industrial playbook to prevent regulation…
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Oil companies say they’re going green, but their investments tell another story

By Kate Yoder   09/09/22  
Well over half of Big Oil’s advertisements promote the message that they have embraced clean energy and emissions reductions, and other such “green claims,” according to a new report from InfluenceMap, a think tank based…
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Big oil companies are spending millions to appear ‘green.’ Their investments tell a different story, report shows

By Lauren Kent   09/08/22  
Big oil companies are spending millions to portray themselves as taking action on climate change, but their investments and lobbying activities don’t live up to their planet-friendly claims, according to a new report.
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Oil Companies Want You to Buy Their New ‘Green’ Image

By Lauren Leffer   09/08/22  
Five of the world’s biggest fossil fuel giants aren’t putting their money where their mouths are. Shell, BP, Chevron, ExxonMobil, and TotalEnergies are all spending hundreds of millions of dollars each year to look better…
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It Wasn’t Just Oil Companies Spreading Climate Denial

By Robinson Meyer   09/07/22  
The electricity industry knew about the dangers of climate change 40 years ago. It denied them anyway. “If we had to stop producing CO₂, no coal, oil, or gas could be burned,” Carroll Wilson declared.…
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The American electric utility industry’s role in promoting climate denial, doubt, and delay

By Emily L Williams, Sydney A Bartone and Others   09/01/22  
For decades, oil and gas companies have misled the public on climate science. Despite conducting their own research that showed climate change was real, these companies publicly sowed doubt about its existence and human cause…
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Eric Worrall at WUWT asks the Dumbest Question Ever About WSJ’s Climate (Opinion) Coverage

By Climate Denier Round up   08/24/22  
It's never fun to have to issue a correction, but a few weeks ago we said that the only non-disinfo outlet to take notice of Anthony Watts' Heartland-funded attempt to cast doubt on thermometer readings…
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Subverting climate science in the classroom

By Katie Worth   06/28/22  
Oil and gas representatives influence the standards for courses and textbooks, from kindergarten to 12th grade.
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Is a Michigan energy firm using dark money to influence California’s climate plans?

By Sammy Roth   06/23/22  
For all of California’s groundbreaking climate policies — the 100% clean energy mandate, the goal of ending gasoline-vehicle sales by 2035 — there’s still a lot of uncertainty over how the Golden State will zero…
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Gensler sees limit to SEC rule on carbon emissions disclosure

By Jim Tyson   06/15/22  
The Securities and Exchange Commission will not require all publicly traded companies to disclose the carbon emissions from their vendors, suppliers and other third parties across their supply chains, but will limit the mandate to…
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Why an energy crisis and $5 gas aren’t spurring a green revolution

By Evan Halper   06/14/22  
As high prices move consumers to rethink their attachment to oil and gas, America is struggling to meet the moment.
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House Democrats probe PR industry’s role in advertising for Big Oil

By Maxine Joselow and Others   06/13/22  
Good morning and welcome to The Climate 202! Today we're worried about a shortage of Sriracha because of extreme droughts in Mexico, where the hot-sauce company sources its chile peppers. One could say it's a…
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Forbes Global 2000 Firms Judged ‘Alarmingly Weak’ On Climate Plans

By David Vetter   06/13/22  
Just a third of firms on the Forbes Global 2000 list of publicly traded companies have net zero emissions targets, and almost two thirds of those pledges fall far short on necessary detail, leaving major…
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How Fashion Giants Recast Plastic as Good for the Planet

By Hiroko Tabuchi   06/12/22  
An explosion in the use of inexpensive, petroleum-based materials has transformed the fashion industry, aided by the successful rebranding of synthetic materials like plastic leather (once less flatteringly referred to as “pleather”) into hip alternatives…
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Top Biden aide prods big tech to crack down on climate misinformation

By Ben Geman   06/09/22  
Gina McCarthy, President Biden's top domestic climate adviser, said tech companies should do more to prevent the spread of inaccurate information about climate change and clean energy.
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‘Deny, Deceive, Delay’: How ‘Evolving’ Disinformation Tactics Stymie Climate Action

By Jessica Corbett   06/09/22  
Pushing for policies requiring Big Tech "to be transparent and accountable about the harms their products create," one campaigner said that "we should not continue this endless game of climate denial whack-a-mole."
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New research points to bad math behind corporate renewable energy claims

By Justine Calma   06/09/22  
The problem stems from companies’ reliance on Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to back up their green claims. A company receives a REC by paying to support renewable energy projects around the world. When brands say…
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