With the effects of climate change being felt around the world, corporations are under immense pressure to demonstrate their commitment to sustainability. As a result of this, the concept of "greenwashing" is rising. Greenwashing is the act of making misleading statements about the environmental benefits of a product or companies falsely portray themselves as environmentally conscious (Lindwall).
Greenhouse gas emissions have led to severe climate impacts such as droughts, floods, and wildfires. Emissions must be halved by 2030 and reduced to net zero by 2050 to efficiently combat climate change. The UN’s 13th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG), Climate Action, advocates for this improvement. However, greenwashing hinders the progress of this SDG, as deceptive marketing claims undermine genuine efforts taken to combat climate change and hamper the public trust (United Nations).
Among recent cases, McDonald’s has been criticized for not following its green initiatives. McDonald's, like many others, stated it would reduce its environmental impact which included the discontinuation of plastic straws, source sustainable beef, and investing in eco-friendly packaging. However, environmental experts argue that the initiatives were done to improve public image and found that a substantial amount of their packaging ended up polluting oceans and landfills (McGuire).
To combat greenwashing, environmental organizations are calling for stricter regulations and verifications of the corporations' environmental claims. The McDonald's case is an example of the importance of holding corporations accountable. As a large worldwide corporation, their actions have huge impacts which highlights the need for stricter regulations and media investigations. The greenwashing controversy also resulted in greater awareness about ethical consumerism, making people question the authenticity of corporate environmental initiatives.
On the other hand, there are positive benefits that come from sustainable business practices. By complying with green initiatives, organizations are helping the world become greener. An exemplary product is the Volvo EX30. Volvo has manufactured a small SUV that focuses on sustainability and has the lowest carbon footprint in Volvo Cars’ history (“Sustainable Flax”). The car is produced from materials such as flax fibers which are biodegradable and recyclable as an alternative to synthetic fibers which are not sustainable (“Flax Fiber”).
Overall, the rising trend of greenwashing and its negative environmental and ethical consequences make it important to hold corporations accountable for their sustainability claims. Furthermore, sustainable business practices have a positive impact on the environment and therefore, help implement the UN’s sustainable development goals.
The Business Standard. 12 Nov. 2021, www.tbsnews.net/analysis/how-large-corporations-rather-greenwash-go-green-328639.
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"Greenwashing – the Deceptive Tactics behind Environmental Claims." United Nations, www.un.org/en/climatechange/science/climate-issues/greenwashing.
Hayes, Adam. "What Is Greenwashing? How It Works, Examples, and Statistics." Investopedia, 31 Mar. 2023, www.investopedia.com/terms/g/greenwashing.asp#:~:text=Why%20is%20greenwashing%20bad%3F,can%20lead%20consumers%20to%20overpay.
Lindwall, Courtney. "What Is Greenwashing?" NRDC, 9 Feb. 2023, www.nrdc.org/stories/what-greenwashing#:~:text=What%20does%20greenwashing%20mean%3F,of%20a%20product%20or%20practice.
McGuire, Jenna. "McDonald's Rebuked for Greenwashing Climate Pledge." EcoWatch, 5 Oct. 2021, www.ecowatch.com/mcdonalds-greenwashing-2655223811.html.
"Sustainable Flax Composites Enter Serial Automotive Production in New Volvo EX30." Bcomp, 2023, www.bcomp.ch/news/sustainable-flax-composites-enter-serial-automotive-production-in-new-volvo-ex30/#.