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Greenwashing & Astroturfing

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#astroturfing #greenwashing #marketing #public relations #terminology


Doug Fogelson

Pretending to be eco-conscious in marketing and using media to appear virtuous without meaningful actions behind the words is a technique known as “greenwashing.” Certain companies benefit greatly by deflecting the harms that they are actually causing through the power of marketing, PR, and campaigns of misinformation with alternative “facts” from official-seeming people. Using claims that cannot be proved, are vague or irrelevant, employing a “lesser of two evils” dichotomy, portraying a “hidden trade-off,” and shifting the blame are just some of the methods used by greenwashers.

One example of greenwashing is the rebranding of the fossil fuel company BP, who went with a flower-like green logo and a name change to “Beyond Petroleum.” Rather than spending real money and shifting to potentially lucrative renewable energy projects, the company spent $107 million on rebranding while dumping $8 billion into further oil exploration. Being wary and doing a little research can often reveal the ugly truth behind what appear to be “too good to be true” claims by corporations.

Hiding the true backers and sponsors behind certain fake campaigns, or through the use of organizations that appear to be serving the “public interest” often employing corporate-sponsored “experts,” blogs that can appear to be written by consumers, incentivizing the public in various coercive ways, or creating false multiple identities are all techniques of “astroturfing.” The Koch Brothers sponsor an astroturfing entity called “The Heartland Institute” that functions to support lobbyists for things like tobacco and more importantly to reject established science around climate change. They publish dubious articles and papers, host conferences, send mass mailings, and more. Be wary and check a little deeper when considering the information that influences our values and actions.

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