Six shades of… Greenwashing

Niels de Fraguier
2 min readMar 10, 2023

Everyone speaks about sustainability, but many are playing with it.

The urgency of our time calls on us to spot greenwashing and shame it. Many businesses have preferred investing in communications claims rather than transformational change. Every company now has a glossy CSR (corporate social responsibility) report highlighting their “positive impact”.

Nevertheless, many of the claims and marketing messages cover the hidden truth of harmful practices. This short brief depicts the 6 shades of greenwashing used by organisations to “green” their activities.

Let’s start with the basics. Greenwashing is “behaviours or activities that make people believe that a company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is”*.

Time to explore the 6 forms of greenwashing.

  1. Greencrowding
    Greencrowding means hiding in a group to avoid getting noticed. It’s like safety in numbers. When groups make plans to help the environment, they tend to move as fast as the slowest member. Governments and environmental groups use Greencrowding to get things done. Claiming that others are not doing better, they do not invest in leading change but rather comply with the minimal levels of impact.
  2. Greenlighting
    Greenlighting happens when a company promotes one small environmentally friendly aspect of their business or product in their communication, like advertisements, to divert attention from other activities that harm the environment. The best example comes from fossil fuel companies communicating only the small renewable part of their business.
  3. Greenshifting
    Greenshifting is when companies suggest that it’s the consumer’s fault for environmental problems and try to put the blame on them. They use public messaging, preferring to focus on “consumers,” “demand,” and “energy efficiency,” indirectly shifting the blame elsewhere.
  4. Greenlabelling
    Greenlabelling is when companies say their product is eco-friendly or sustainable, but when you look closer, their claims aren’t completely true. Brands are using misleading labels to manipulate citizens’ impressions of their products or services.
  5. Greenrinsing
    Greenrinsing is when a company keeps changing its environmental goals before actually achieving them…

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Niels de Fraguier

Author of The Regenerative Enterprise. Disrupting the status quo by challenging assumptions, practices, and conventional thinking. Top Writer on Sustainability