By Maria Rosaria Raspanti, Mario Di Giulio
In the course of the XIII century, chivalry formally put its sword at the service of justice, mercy, and the protection of the deprived and the oppressed. This was an escamotage to make habits and costumes of knights – not exactly in line with the spiritual and religious canons of the time – acceptable, leaving knights free to keep acting the same way.
The trick worked, chivalry being lined up with high values as kindness and righteousness from then on.
If in the Middle Age spiritual needs permeated the personal sphere, nowadays – also – more substantial, yet vital, needs affect the common sentiment. Reputational washing, as an evolving animal, adapts and takes different declinations.
One of these is greenwashing.
You may have heard this term before, in relation to claims praising how a specific product is eco-sustainable, has no impact on the environment, is produced respecting the ecosystem and, finally, makes the consumer believe he is contributing to the environmental challenge simply swiping his credit card.
Of course, not every green claim is a trap. However, practice is picturing a reality in which marketing campaigns claiming the eco-sustainability of products often seem ungrounded.
It is therefore essential to understand what greenwashing consists in and how companies and consumers can escape it.
We were talking about reputational washing. Actually, this is how greenwashing manifested at the very beginning, when ungrounded green claims where used to cover polluting or otherwise environmentally impacting conducts of companies. The term is borrowed from whitewashing, which literally means camouflaging imperfections brushing them with paint.
Greenwashing, at least at the origins, was exactly this: a brush of green paint over coal, pretending to make it look like emerald.
The phenomenon has however changed overtime. If at the beginning catching consumers’ attention for the sake of sales was probably a secondary target, the link between eco-sustainability and sales growth has progressively become clear to companies, to the point that several traders have started structuring their marketing strategies around this topic, giving rise to the phenomenon of green marketing.