I’ll start with a confession: I have no idea how the concept of “greenwashing” was generated, a concept that condenses the accusation made by environmentalists to companies and institutions that, through marketing and public relations campaigns, want to convince everyone that they have environmental concerns and that they act accordingly, with products and services with a low environmental impact, but what they do is just to pretend it while they continue to work and produce as if they don’t care at all about the environmental impact.
It is a concept that works quite well but that could work better if rethought: the reason is that the verb “wash” has positive connotations. That is, when you wash something, you leave it “clean”, which is not far from environmental goals: “clean” nature. Seen from this point of view, the use of the concept of “washing” can leave the subjective and unconscious impression that, in spite of everything, it is not bad that companies make this effort of appearance, because at least they strive to be “clean”.
But the truth is the opposite: they are no “cleaner”, not even a little, but they get dirtier, because they add a layer of appearance to all their activity and all their public image. To connote this, other much more suitable linguistic formulas can be used: the easiest is perhaps that of “painting“, so that “greenwashing” could be replaced by “painted green” or “greenpainting”, which can become an equally effective social media label: #GreenPainting.
In fact, shortly after I finished writing these lines I found two news items on the internet that literally use the visual idea of “painting green” accompanying the hashtag #greenwashing:
And the other formula that comes to mind that may also be ideal is “make up“: these companies and institutions put on “make up” to look “environmentally friendly“, and hide their “environmental dirt” under a public layer to pretend “cleanliness”, but only pretend it. In this case, the formulation would also be a very optimal concept: “green make up“, and on social media can be formulated with the hashtag #GreenMakeUp.
Both formulas provide “dirty” connotations to those who are considered to use these public relations and advertising techniques, which can help generate more rejection and more pressure, which is what entities that use the concept of “greenwashing” are looking for. In addition, the change from one concept to another will give extra visibility to environmental organizations, which will have the opportunity to be present in public space to explain it.
All in all, what I am proposing here is a relatively easy action to take that can have a very high impact in terms of perception.
Josep Maria Camps Collet