Green Advertising vs. Greenwashing: Doing The Right Thing

Green Advertising vs. Greenwashing: Doing The Right Thing

Climate change is among the most urgent problems the global economy currently faces – a continuation of this trend could lead to an 18% decline in global GDP if the temperature rises to 3.2°C by 2050 (Swiss Re Institute, 2021).

Companies worldwide are aware and, thus, many are moving towards sustainable and environmentally-friendly projects such as the outdoor clothing brand Patagonia – who use recycled and organically grown materials for their products – or Latin America’s second largest financial organization, Banco do Brasil, which has become the most sustainable bank worldwide according to Corporate Knight (2022).

In addition to environmental and social responsibility, people’s concern for protecting planet Earth is increasing every day and it translates mainly into more conscious shopping habits. As a result, companies have one more reason to make sustainable choices – or at least to pretend that they do so.

In order to avoid being deceived by a company’s sustainable image, or to avoid misleading your own customers it is important to differentiate between the concepts of “green advertising” and “greenwashing”.

Green Advertising vs. Greenwashing. What are They Exactly?

Green advertising is the practice of highlighting and promoting a company’s environmental and social respect via the creation and dissemination of corresponding communication measures and products.

It is based on the premise that a whole company – including its services, products and processes – has been developed to have a low negative impact on the planet. For example, by making sure the manufacturing process is not harmful to the environment or that the products are made entirely out of recycled and/or other sustainable materials.

On the other hand, greenwashing is basically the process of deceiving or misleading customers by promoting a company image in which the aims, policies or products are sustainable and respect the environment when in fact they do not.

Greenwashing is used as a marketing strategy to make the brand or product more appealing to the customer. Changing the logo or slogan to identify the brand with “green” images or exaggerating some benefits of a product while ignoring larger harmful ones are only a few examples.

Pros and Cons of (Green) Advertising Strategies

There is no doubt that it is important that companies are truly environmentally friendly, but it is also essential how they communicate that.

Marketing research shows that green advertising design with good argument quality improves the effect of advertising. In other words, due to properly communicating a company’s “green” efforts people are more likely to get a product or service that has a low impact on the environment – which is undoubtedly a benefit for everyone.

If, on the other hand, the advertising campaign is carried out by a company that is not really green, this can undoubtedly lead to negative repercussions – not only for the environment and society but also for the reputation of the company.

Selling a product or service as environmentally friendly but in fact using anti-green practices damaging the environment on a large scale can wipe out customer trust in the blink of an eye if they notice.

Moreover, it can be costly if ones image as a “greenwasher” becomes public as a company will need to put a lot of time, money and resources into making amends for the damage done to one’s reputation – not to mention legal consequences if greenwashing grows into a scam.

Identify and Measure “Green” Strategies

The line between green advertising and greenwashing can be very thin and the effects of doing one or the other very different – as we have just seen. Observing the dissemination of this type of advertising on the media as well as the audience’s perception can help to making sure that the communication of “green” aspects leads to the desired effects.

To keep an eye on any green ad campaign and always be aware of what is being said about a product or service, more and more companies rely on real-time media monitoring solutions. They are especially beneficial if sentiment analysis is part of the service. This way, users can easily investigate the polarity of the messages (positive, neutral, negative).

Another big plus of monitoring the media worldwide is being able to find out how competition is implementing their green advertising campaigns. This is also a good way of understanding how to execute such measures – or how better not to.

For companies wanting to solely concentrate on green ad campaign measurement, there are special ad campaign monitoring options that let users independently investigate if, when and how ads are being disseminated – no matter if they want to track their own ones or those of their competition.

If you would like to benefit from worldwide media coverage knowledge to improve or develop your own green advertising strategies get in contact with the eMM team and book a personal demo today:


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