When companies like Exxon-Mobil and McDonalds think "green," they’re thinking of cash, not the earth. And after all, what matters to unscrupulous marketers isn’t so much the reality of their brand or product, but how the public perceives it – which often results in greenwashing so absurd, it’s almost funny. These 15 examples of extreme greenwashing range from woefully ignorant to downright malicious.
1. McDonalds Literally Greenwashes its Logo
McDonalds wants everyone to know they’re going green…ish. The fast food monster is swapping the red in their logo for green in an effort to convince Europeans that they care about the environment. To be fair, the company has made some important strides -- like using environmentally-friendly refrigeration and converting used oil to biodiesel -- but this is still fast food relying on distinctly un-green factory farms for their supplies, to say the least.
As GreenBiz.com put it, "This strategy is essentially the textbook definition of greenwashing: Promoting green in the abstract, literally re-painting your signage with the color green, while simultaneously making sparse, vague claims about environmental action."
Recipe for a whale of a fail: Take one Hummer, the most environmentally unfriendly personal vehicle known to man. Plaster it with images of glistening green leaves and phrases like ‘EcoSmart’, which just happens to be the name of your company. Watch your company lose credibility instantaneously, and become an internet laughingstock among the very people you were hoping would become your customers.
Even if this particular behemoth were somehow greener than your typical Hummer, that wouldn’t mean much – but would still be more forgivable than using one of these vehicles to advertise an "eco-smart" company.
3. "Even Our Store Bags are Disposable!"
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When this New Mexico pet shop decided to "go green," they apparently didn’t bother finding out what that actually means -- hence, their proud declaration that “even our store bags are disposable!” Though the people responsible for the ad probably didn’t mean to deceive anyone, ignorance can be just as bad -- it’s seriously confusing for consumers who are already not too clear on what makes a product green.
4. Cover the Earth with Toxic Paint!
Want some tips on how to greenwash? Ask Sherwin-Williams. They’ve built an entire marketing campaign around a supposedly green line of paint which, according to Inhabitat, isn’t actually all that green -- all while plastering billboards with their head-scratching logo that seems to advocate covering the entire world in toxic Sherwin-Williams paint.
5. Fox News + Going Green = ?
Wait a minute, is that a Fox News logo being hugged by a commie recycling symbol? Indeed, the undeniably conservative news network seemed to completely forget who their audience is with their “How Green” website, an apparent attempt to maintain that "fair and balanced" illusion.
The site was about as authentic as a backdrop on a middle school theater set, with uninspired articles and a sloppy design. It became pretty clear that Fox News’ heart wasn’t exactly into it when the site went without updates for months on end, prompting Ecorazzi to liken it to "a zombie that won’t die." The website was finally taken down in Fall 2009.
6. CO2 is Actually Good for the Earth
"There is no scientific evidence that CO2 is a pollutant." So proclaims an ad called "CO2 is Green," which backed up this dubious claim with statements like "higher CO2 levels than we have today would actually help the Earth’s ecosystems." It may just be the most ridiculous example of greenwashed propaganda yet, and who else could possibly be responsible but oil & coal interests.
The ad was generated by a veteran oil industry executive and a Houston-based owner of coal resources as part of a campaign to undermine the EPA’s ruling that CO2 should be classified as a pollutant. It didn’t work, of course.