Despite the efforts of many businesses, a new CSR study shows that Americans are not falling for greenwashing. In fact, the research from the 2011 Cone Green Gap Trend Tracker shows that 71% of people will stop buying the product altogether if they feel they are being misled, showing that false environmental claims from businesses will have a negative effect on their products if they aren’t being honest.
What is greenwashing?
Greenwashing is the act of a business providing false environmental claims, or exaggerating claims that their product is environmentally friendly, to seem as if they are part of the ‘green’ movement. Examples of ‘greenwashed’ products are water bottles promoting “reduced plastic” (see: Poland Spring), or SUVs ignoring they are gas guzzlers (see: Ford using Kermit the Frog to sing ‘It’s Not Easy Being Green’).
New statistics on greenwashing from the Green Gap Trend Tracker
A reported 97% of Americans think they understand terms like ‘green’ and ‘environmentally friendly’ when used in marketing, but in fact 41% think it means the products have a beneficial impact on the environment, as opposed to a lesser impact than its predecessor product. Based on these results, 75% of Americans wish businesses would give better explanations for what environmental benefits the product will have.
The negative impacts on a greenwashing business
Unfortunately, the misunderstanding about green topics itself could have a negative impact on the company when the truth about the product is revealed. However, 71% of respondents said they will stop buying the product if they were misled with a green claim, and of that 71%, more than a third will outright boycott the company. This means the negative impact of greenwashing is far worse than most businesses have assumed, considering some of the ridiculous green claims that have been made.
Let this be a lesson to business looking to go green: if you fake corporate social responsibility, consumers will find out, and they won’t be happy if you lied to them. Stay honest, and be legitimately green to set a good example, and retain customers for the future.