Go Green But Don’t Greenwash

By April 26, 2023 No Comments

For many, April is the beginning of sunshine, warmth, and an overall feeling of optimism as parts of the U.S. begin to thaw out from the cold winter months. But no matter where you call home, April is also known as “Earth Month,” a month dedicated to raising environmental awareness and bringing attention to the climate issues facing us all. 

The idea of “going green” has been trending for quite some time now, with businesses of all sizes and sectors trying to figure out ways to publicize their earth-friendly initiatives. While this is most definitely a great way to get in on this trend, the key here is making sure you’re not “greenwashing.” Greenwashing is a term used to describe the practice of using marketing to deceptively persuade the public into thinking an organization’s products, aims, or policies are environmentally friendly – when in actuality they are not. While greenwashing might seem like a good way to trendjack, it can end up seriously backfiring for both the client and the PR agency, if claims made are too much of a reach or just plain inaccurate.

Some of the biggest brands in the world have gotten into trouble for greenwashing, including McDonald’s for its paper straws that ended up not being able to be recycled, ExxonMobil, Nestle and Volkswagen. While trendjacking can be a very fruitful tactic, it is absolutely necessary that the connections that are attempting to be made to the topic at hand are both truthful and can be supported by evidence. 

When a company gets caught greenwashing, it damages its credibility and its public image. This can have long-lasting effects and will take a while to rebuild. Of late, public relations agencies are also beginning to be held accountable. Last year, a study examining the role of PR agencies in climate change politics revealed that PR agencies have played a large role in coining eco-friendly terminology and gaining green coverage for clients, but are not always held responsible if the claims turn out to be false. That might be changing with PR agencies facing increased pressure for more transparency. 

In order to do green PR the right way, figure out where your client fits in green PR and how you can use that to build brand awareness. What are its core values when it comes to sustainability and environmental practices? What types of initiatives does it take to incorporate sustainability into its product or service? Be thoughtful with wording and imagery, making sure that anything implied is truthful and can be supported by data. 

Highlighting these things is the best way to build environmental brand awareness in an authentic way. There is a ton of opportunity to be had with environmental PR when executed properly. You can tap into new sectors of media, create new storylines and thought leadership pieces, and reach new audiences. Going green is not only good for the environment, but good for PR when it is done correctly.