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Santa Cruz Sentinel

CA - Our Ocean Backyard | ‘Green’ tag not always good for the environment

Advertising is an incredibly powerful tool for convincing us to buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.

Last year, the United States spent nearly $300 billion on advertising, and now that we are only about six weeks from Christmas, we can expect to be inundated with ads to convince us to get out our credit cards and close out the year on a spending spree.

Gary Griggs
Gary Griggs

According to the latest data from the National Retail Federation, individual American consumers spend an average of $998 on gifts and holiday stuff each Christmas, which is the same as the median pre-tax weekly salary of $1,001.

There is another form of advertising that has become widespread and deceitful, and that has even been given a name, Greenwashing. Many of us look for labels on products or companies that tout themselves as being green or producing stuff that is organic, both qualities that are very difficult to verify or confirm.

A recent report by Earth.Org calls out 10 companies for Greenwashing. Some on this list may not be surprises, but others may well be. The following lists those 10 companies and a brief description of why they are on the list.

• Volkswagen: While the company was touting their low-emissions and eco-friendly features of its vehicles in their marketing and advertising campaigns, they admitted to cheating emissions tests by fitting some of their vehicles with software that could detect when they were being tested for emissions and then altering the performance to reduce the emissions level.

• BP: The fossil fuel giant BP changed their name to Beyond Petroleum and recently made a big show of adding solar panels on their gas stations. A complaint was lodged against them recently, however, for misleading the public (Greenwashing) with its ads that were focused on the firm’s low-carbon energy products when over 96% of its annual budget is directed towards oil and gas.

• ExxonMobil: This petroleum giant has the dubious distinction of having produced the nation’s worst spill in U.S. history, prior to the Deepwater Horizon blowout in the Gulf of Mexico. One of their oil tankers, the Exxon Valdez, spilled 11 million gallons of crude oil into Alaska’s Prince William Sound after hitting a well-marked reef, in what was called the worst drunk-driving accident in history. The spill coated 1,300 miles of shoreline with crude oil, killing countless seabirds and otters. Recently, ExxonMobil came under fire for advertising that suggested that its experimental algae biofuels could one day reduce transport emissions. It has no company-wide net zero target and its 2025 emission reduction targets do not include the vast majority of emissions resulting from its products.

• Nestlé: This company released a statement in 2018 saying that it had “ambitions” for its packaging to be 100% recyclable or reusable by 2025, without any clear targets or timeline to accompany its ambitions. Greenpeace responded that the company’s statement on plastic packaging won’t move forward the reduction of single-use plastics significantly and sets an incredibly low standard as the world’s largest food and beverage company. In Break Free From Plastic’s 2020 Annual Report, Nestlé, along with Coca-Cola and PepsiCo, were named the planet’s top plastic polluters for the third year in a row.

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