When we’re discussing consumption of health, and particularly while doing research for my greenwashing post, I was reminded of classes I’ve taken as part of my public relations major. Many of these classes refer to branding, and what greenwashing is (and it’s even more nefarious cousin, pinkwashing!) and offer a behind the curtain look at the motivations behind greenwashing, and how things are meant to look environmentally conscious, when in reality, they may not be. But before we dive right into the idea of greenwashing, I think it’s important to learn a few other terminologies and slang that could potentially pertain to this topic, and give you a more comprehensive view of the suffix “-washing” and what it can potentially do to consumers and their consumption patterns.
Now, in the world of public relations, there’s a certain news cycle that perpetuates itself – referred to lovingly as a ‘news jack’ – where it starts with a breaking news, or a breaking campaign. Say, a soap with microbeads is 25% more environmentally friendly than other, similar soaps on the market. This can be released through a news release. Then, journalists will look for information, public excitement grows, the story peaks and interest subsequently dies down. This campaign, without any snags or hiccups, would be successful – unless you look at the underlying issue of microbeads in soap not being environmentally friendly at all. This spin can perpetuate and send things out of control.
This also exists in other industries, here are a few -washing’s to keep your eyes on:
- Pinkwashing (Breast Cancer) – Promoting something as ‘breast cancer awareness’ without having any true motive to perpetuate. A good example of this is Five Hour Energy donating 5 cents a bottle of a particular kind of Five Hour Energy to breast cancer research, or pink buckets for KFC chicken.
- Pinkwashing (LGBT Community) – Aligning a seemingly unrelated brand with LGBT rights – while a company coming out and saying they’re supportive of rights is fantastic, it is most definitely a marketing ploy in some cases. This happened a lot after the Supreme Court Decision of the US to nationally allow LGBT couples to marry. Oreo is an offender.
- Bluewashing – Humanitarian-driven. A company that benefits directly from its “humanitarian” causes, despite not being particularly beneficial to the community they claim to serve – TOMs shoes is a good example.