Greenwashing 101

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?

CURRENT NEWS

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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MORE NEWS

Oil and gas companies underreported methane leaks, new study shows

By Steven Mufson   06/08/22  
Big oil and gas companies have internal data showing that their methane emissions in the vast Permian Basin “are likely significantly higher than official data” reported to the Environmental Protection Agency, says a new report…
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How a Republican effort punishes companies for climate action

By David Gelles and Hiroko Tabuchi   05/27/22  
Legislators and their allies are running an aggressive campaign that uses public money and the law to pressure businesses they say are pushing “woke” causes.
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U.S. SEC unveils rules to ensure ESG funds follow through on investments

By Katanga Johnson & Ross Kerber   05/26/22  
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on Wednesday proposed a pair of rule changes aimed at stamping out unfounded claims by funds on their environmental, social and corporate governance (ESG) credentials, and enforcing more…
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Big Oil, flush with cash, is failing on climate pledges

By Allison Morrow   05/25/22  
In the peak of 2020 lockdowns, giant oil companies had a wake-up call. Demand had cratered, sapping profits, and it wasn't clear when it would end. That gave environmentally minded investors an in. The pitch:…
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Big Fossil’s disaster capitalist response to Russia-Ukraine

By Amy Westervelt   05/25/22  
The industry moved quickly to capture the narrative, going from disinformation blitz to policy wins within a matter of weeks.
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A feud over fossil fuel money

By Manuela Andreoni   05/24/22  
At Stanford University, the question is ringing loud. This month, hundreds of students, faculty members and alumni, in an open letter, called on the university’s new climate school to decline funding from fossil fuel companies.
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Headline pledges are often ambiguous and emission reduction commitments are limited

Thomas Day & Others   05/23/22  
Companies around the world are increasing alert to the climate emergency. They face calls from a growing range of stakeholders
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HSBC suspends head of responsible investing who called climate warnings ‘shrill’

By Kalyeena Makortoff   05/22/22  
HSBC has suspended a senior banker after he referred to climate crisis warnings as “unsubstantiated” and “shrill” during a conference speech that has since been denounced by the lender’s chief executive. Stuart Kirk, who has…
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Climate Forward

By Manuela Andreoni   05/20/22  
First, let’s talk about greenwashing — a blanket term to describe false or unproven claims in a company’s environmental records. It’s a big problem. The New Climate Institute, a research organization based in Germany, recently…
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Why do we swallow what big oil and the green movement tell us?

By Thomas L. Friedman   05/17/22  
It has long been said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. By that definition, we’re the ones detached from reality if we…
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Oil Giants Sell Dirty Wells to Buyers With Looser Climate Goals, Study Finds

By Hiroku Tabuchi   05/10/22  
When Royal Dutch Shell sold off its stake in the Umuechem oil field in Nigeria last year, it was, on paper, a step forward for the company’s climate ambitions: Shell could clean up its holdings,…
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Brazil is gaslighting its way to a climate misinformation catastrophe

By Robert Muggah and Mac Margolis   05/09/22  
Brazilians know all about fake news. Digital hucksters have attacked the integrity of Brazil’s electronic voting system, baselessly accused adversaries of “teaching” homosexuality in the classroom and promoted faith-based covid-19 treatments, all with a nod…
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Climate sceptic thinktank received funding from fossil fuel interests

By Helena Horton and Adam Bychawski   05/04/22  
An influential thinktank that has led the backlash against the government’s net zero policy has received funding from groups with oil and gas interests, according to tax documents seen by the Guardian and OpenDemocracy.
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‘Existential Threat’: Indigenous Leaders Urge Citigroup to Stop Backing Amazon Oil

By Rachel Sherrington   04/28/22  
Indigenous leaders have called on Citigroup to stop financing oil and gas projects in the Amazon, saying the bank’s activities contradict its climate pledges by putting the threatened ecosystem at greater risk.
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In the dark: how social media companies’ climate disinformation problem is hidden from the public

04/25/22  
For decades, the fossil fuel industry has poured millions of dollars into spreading climate disinformation 1 online and offline to drive public polarization and stall action on the climate crisis. That’s why the latest UN…
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TikTok, Twitter, and Facebook Are Letting Climate Denial Run Rampant: Report

By Lauren Leffer   04/22/22  
Fossil fuel companies have known about climate change since 1966, and for almost as long, they’ve been buying TV, radio and newspaper ads trying to make sure you don’t. Decades later, lies about climate change…
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Greenwashing 101: How to decipher corporate claims about climate

By Douglas MacMillan   04/21/22  
Companies are eager to tout their environmental progress on Earth Day. Here are five tips for investigating whether their claims tell the full story.
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Brazilian Meat Giant JBS a Bigger Emitter Than Italy, Study Estimates

By Michaela Herrmann   04/21/22  
Greenhouse gas emissions produced by JBS, the world’s largest meat processor, have surged more than 50 percent in the past five years as the company has acquired new poultry and livestock units – meaning it…
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Press release: edgi releases report on carbon emissions by us corporations

By EDGI Comms   04/20/22  
Today, the Environmental Data & Governance Initiative (EDGI) releases its report, Owning Up: A Tool to Measure US Carbon Emissions by Corporations. The report analyzes greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions tracked by the U.S. Environmental Protection…
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Breaking down climate misinformation with amy westervelt and john cook

04/15/22  
Fossil fuel companies have spent decades casting doubt in public about climate facts that their own scientists validated in internal company research. These tactics have included a concerted effort to recast political speech, banned and…
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They derailed climate action for a decade. And bragged about it.

By Kate Yoder   04/15/22  
In 1989, just as leaders around the world were starting to think seriously about tackling global warming, the National Association of Manufacturers assembled a group of corporations — utilities, oil companies, automakers, and more —…
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Will Technology Solve The Sustainability Challenge?

By Felicia Jackson   04/13/22  
There is no question that sustainability is a core issue for business today, driven by concern about the growing impact of climate-induced extreme weather, as well as an increase in regulatory disclosure demands. I
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Documents show polluting industries mobilized to block climate action

By Amy Westervelt   04/12/22  
Of the primary reports that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change publishes every four to six years, the mitigation report, focused on what can be done and what’s holding climate action back, only gets more…
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Latest IPCC Reports Underscore Threat of Climate Disinformation

By Michael Khoo   04/04/22  
The latest reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) confirm that “climate change is causing dangerous and widespread disruption in nature and affecting the lives of billions of people,” urging that if we…
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Canadian ex-minister Catherine McKenna named to head UN greenwash watchdog

By Joe Lo   03/31/22  
Within twelve months, the 16-member group is to publish recommendations on how to judge net zero commitments and translate them into national and international regulations.
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Facebook drives sceptics towards climate denial

By Merlyn Thomas   03/30/22  
A report released Wednesday by Global Witness found Facebook's algorithm amplified doubts rather than nudging people towards reliable information. Facebook says its systems are "designed to reduce misinformation". Researchers created two users - climate sceptic…
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Facebook paid GOP firm to malign TikTok

By Taylor Lorenz and Drew Harwell   03/30/22  
Facebook parent company Meta is paying one of the biggest Republican consulting firms in the country to orchestrate a nationwide campaign seeking to turn the public against TikTok.
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Banks promised climate action. Where is it?

By Emily Pontecorvo   03/25/22  
A flurry of climate pledges from financial institutions in recent years has not been followed by meaningful action, according to a report from the corporate accountability nonprofit InfluenceMap published on Friday.
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New SEC climate rule leaves progressives wanting more

By Rachel Frazin and Saul Elbein   03/23/22  
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) took a long-sought step this week by proposing to require that publicly traded companies disclose their direct and indirect climate change contributions, but advocates are pointing to loopholes they…
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American companies can’t sugarcoat their carbon pollution anymore

Robinson Meyer   03/23/22  
On Monday, the SEC announced that it would add another layer to this set of essential disclosures, requiring companies to also release information about their climate risks. Starting next fiscal year, the country’s largest public…
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This Timber Company Sold Millions of Dollars of Useless Carbon Offsets

By Ben Elgin   03/17/22  
Jim Hourdequin is one of the planet’s biggest sellers of carbon offsets—the widely used instruments that are supposed to act as a balm for the rapidly overheating climate. His company earned $53 million from these…
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Texas threatens to hit ESG firms over fossil fuel ‘boycott’

By Adam Aton   03/17/22  
Texas is wrestling with how to hit back against Wall Street’s green posture. The state’s top financial official is starting to inch toward action against some firms, after months of Texas Republicans bashing financial giants…
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‘Sustainable’ funds are no more green than traditional products, study finds

03/17/22  
Clarity AI, a sustainability data technology platform part-owned by BlackRock, analysed 31,000 funds to assess how they perform against a new European Union classification system that defines a list of environmentally sustainable economic activities. Its…
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Greenwashing Is Increasingly Making ESG Moot

By Tim Quinson   03/16/22  
For years now, managers of big funds touting their supposed focus on the environment, social issues and corporate governance have been faulted for holding shares of fossil-fuel purveyors (including Exxon Mobil Corp. and Chevron Corp.),…
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World’s biggest money manager BlackRock does u-turn on climate commitments?

By Shoma Bhattacharjee   03/09/22  
BlackRock had recently become one of the latest financial institutions to call for sustainable investment. The company, the world’s biggest multinational investment management company with over $10 trillion in assets that it manages, had published…
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What’s Driving Insurers to Prioritize ESG Investments?

By Jonathan McGoran   02/23/22  
A recent survey of 280 decision makers at U.S.-based life/annuity and P&C insurers shows increased attention and commitment to aligning investments with Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) goals.
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Major oil companies aren’t following through on climate change promises

By Mary Louise Kelly   02/18/22  
NPR's Mary Louise Kelly talks with Gregory Trencher, a co-author of a report that shows, despite pledges, BP, Chevron, Exxon Mobil and Shell aren't making changes needed to transition to clean energy.
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Green washing: World’s biggest companies overstating climate change action, says study

By CNBCTV18.com   02/07/22  
Some of the world’s biggest companies that have made commitments to reduce their carbon emissions are vastly overstating their progress and failing to meet their own goals, a new study has stated. Companies like Google,…
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What do the Tobacco-Loving Heartland Institute, Bill Cosby, Petrostates, and Racists Have in Common?

By Daily Kos Staff   01/25/22  
Because last week, a “P.S.” note at the bottom of a Heartland Institute email to subscribers explained they sent “two policy experts to New Hampshire this week to testify in favor of a proposed bill…
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Dirty greenwashing: watchdog targets fashion brands over misleading claims

By Sarah Butler   01/14/22  
Fashion brands that make misleading claims about their environmental credentials face a crackdown by the competition watchdog as it targets greenwashing.
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One in 5 ads on Google from fossil fuel companies, finds study

By CNBC18.com   01/08/22  
Fossil fuel companies are among the biggest spenders on Google ads that look like search results, revealed a joint study by The Guardian and InfluenceMap, a think-tank that tracks the lobbying efforts of polluting industries.
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The firms that help keep oil flowing

By Hiroko Tabuchi   10/13/21  
Secretive investment funds are putting billions into fossil fuel projects, buying up offshore platforms and building new pipelines.
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The January 6 corporate accountability index

By Judd Legum, Rebecca Crosby and Others   08/17/21  
After a violent mob stormed the Capitol building in January, hundreds of corporations pledged to make changes to their political giving. Some corporations pledged to withhold PAC funding to the 147 Republicans who voted to…
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Scientists hired by oil giants predicted climate crisis 60 years ago: Report

Edited by: Aditi Gautam   07/05/21  
More than 26 lawsuits have been filed in the US against oil companies for their role in climate change. The internal documents of these companies contain research data collected by their teams regarding the effect…
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Inside Exxon’s playbook: How America’s biggest oil company continues to oppose action on climate change

By Lawrence Carter   06/30/21  
ExxonMobil continues to fight efforts to tackle climate change in the United States, despite publicly claiming to support the Paris climate agreement, an undercover investigation by Unearthed has found.
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D&O Price Increases Sting in a Hardening Market. Adopting ESG Best Practices Can Reduce the Pain

By Courtney DuChene   01/28/21  
Alphabet, Google’s parent company, made headlines last fall when it committed to spending $310 million over the next decade on corporate diversity programs as part of a settlement for a series of shareholder lawsuits over…
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How Big Oil Misled The Public Into Believing Plastic Would Be Recycled

By Laura Sullivan   09/11/20  
Laura Leebrick, a manager at Rogue Disposal & Recycling in southern Oregon, is standing on the end of its landfill watching an avalanche of plastic trash pour out of a semitrailer: containers, bags, packaging, strawberry…
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Exxon Confirmed Global Warming Consensus in 1982 with In-House Climate Models

By Lisa Song and Others   09/22/15  
Steve Knisely was an intern at Exxon Research and Engineering in the summer of 1979 when a vice president asked him to analyze how global warming might affect fuel use. “I think this guy was…
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