Does social media encourage corporate greenwashing?

Greenwashing is the act of outwardly promoting sustainable ideas to draw attention away from the reality, which is typically much more harmful to the environment than projected to the audience. In the digital age where it has become important for brands to create an authentic image, are brands greenwashing to appeal more to audiences?

I think Generation Z are much more eco-aware and socially conscious than any other generation. The nature of social media which facilitates content to go viral has made sustainable living trendy. As a result of this Generation Z are much more eco-aware and socially conscious. 9 times out of 10, everyone in the university library carries a reusable water bottle, brings lunch in reusable Tupperware, and tends to wear more eco-friendly clothing. I use social media to find new brands to purchase from, however I find it hard to trust their image as I’m aware than many brands use greenwashing as a tactic to appeal to audiences. By promoting their eco-credentials brands can convince audiences that they care about the same things as them. However, greenwashing becomes a problem when consumers support a company as they believe they are environmentally ethical when they aren’t.

A few years ago, the fast fashion brand Pretty Little Thing (PLT) released a sustainable clothing line where garments were supposedly created from recycled materials. At the time this line was released, the brand was under fire for not being environmentally conscious due to the sustainability trend being in its early stages across social media. This is a prime example of greenwashing, as PLT marketed this line as sustainable, but, in reality they use planet-damaging polyester in most of its clothing and have taken little to no meaningful action to improve its environmental credentials. The brand itself have used influencer marketing to build their brand to an arguably untouchable standard in our society, with most young people having been a loyal customer of them at some point. Furthermore, most of PLTs demographic are teenage girls who are very impressionable. Therefore, by adopting greenwashing as a tactic they are arguably intentionally misleading customers to place trust in their brand and purchase from their sustainable line.

Its significantly easier for businesses to market themselves as eco-friendly rather than implementing meaningful changes into their business. Greenwashing itself can be very difficult to spot, however with a little bit of investigation you can normally find enough information to draw your own conclusions. I tend to look on the Good On You website which has ranked most clothing organisations ethics. In the post-truth digital era perhaps, there should be some form of regulation which means that brands cannot market themselves as something which they aren’t. In the climate crisis, shouldn’t we all have an obligation to make more eco-conscious choices? What do you think, should there be some form of regulation to prevent greenwashing?

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