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Which one of the following best describes the term “greenwashing”?

(a) Conveying a false impression that a company’s products are eco-friendly and environmentally sound

(b) Non-inclusion of ecological/environmental costs in the Annual Financial Statements of a country

(c) Ignoring the disastrous ecological consequences while undertaking infrastructure development

(d) Making mandatory provisions for environmental costs in a government project/programme

Explanation

The term greenwashing refers to the deceptive practice of making unsubstantiated or misleading claims that a company’s products or practices are environmentally friendly.

Greenwashing is when companies make claims about their environmental credentials that are false or misleading in order to present a green image to consumers. It involves exaggerating or misrepresenting the extent to which a product or company’s practices are eco-friendly or sustainable.

Common examples include suggesting products are recyclable when they are not, using misleading eco-friendly imagery and buzzwords, and touting green initiatives that have little real impact. The purpose of greenwashing is to capitalize on consumer demand for environmentally conscious products and to cover up unsustainable practices. It is considered unethical because it deceives consumers who prefer to purchase from environmentally responsible companies.

The other options do not accurately describe greenwashing:

Therefore, option (a) most accurately describes the term “greenwashing”.

Learn more

What are some common examples of greenwashing?

  • Using nature imagery or buzzwords like “eco-friendly” or “natural” to promote conventional products
  • Touting minor initiatives like reduced packaging while ignoring major impacts
  • Making vague claims that can’t be substantiated like “sustainable”
  • Promoting products and initiatives as recyclable when they are not practically recyclable
  • Companies with poor environmental records rebranding themselves as green

What are the effects of greenwashing?

  • It erodes consumer trust and causes skepticism about legitimate green claims
  • It allows companies to capitalize on demand for green products while avoiding meaningful change
  • It slows momentum for companies to become truly sustainable
  • It makes it hard for consumers to distinguish truly green options

How can greenwashing be avoided?

  • Companies should substantiate claims with specific details and allow third-party verification
  • Labeling and standards organizations can certify environmental claims
  • Consumers can research companies and products to verify claims
  • Governments can penalize companies for misleading claims
  • Companies should commit to transparency about their practices

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