This month in greenwashing: Primark sponsor Repair Week, Amazon launch conscious clothing line, and more
A round up of the best (read: worst) examples of greenwashing to grace our screens in the last month.
It’s been a big month in greenwashing.
We’ve had Primark sponsoring Repair Week, the launch of Amazon Aware, energy company TotalEnergies being sued for investing in fossil fuels whilst claiming to be carbon neutral, an analysis of climate pledges from the world’s largest companies, consumers voting H&M, Primark, and Amazon to be the most eco-friendly brands, and the Advertising Standards Agency cracking down on Innocent and Oatly adverts.
So let’s dive into it.
Greenwashing: a company or product making itself appear to be environmentally friendly without having done the work to meaningfully reduce its environmental impact.
Primark sponsors Repair Week
Repair Week is an annual event run by London Recycles, with resources and a series of events to promote repairing items as a way to extend their life.
A noble cause. But for 2022, they’ve decided to make Primark their headline sponsor. Yep, that’s right. Primark, the fast fashion brand famous for producing cheap, poor quality clothing, is sponsoring an event on repairing.
Repairing is the complete antithesis of what Primark do as a brand. Their clothes are designed to be as cheap as humanly possible to promote people buying more and more clothes. When they wear out due to the terrible quality, the low cost means that it’s less money, time, and effort for people to simply go to Primark and buy a replacement than to even consider repairing the garment. So the greenwashing present in them sponsoring Repair Week, and even running ‘Love it for Longer Repair workshops’ as part of it, is clear.
The launch of Amazon Aware
Retail giant Amazon have jumped on the sustainability bandwagon, launching a brand of ‘everyday essentials, consciously created’ called Amazon Aware.
The aim is to offer consumers sustainable clothing, homewares, beauty products etc at affordable prices. The problem being that to make items truly sustainable is costly, and we can’t trust brands claiming to have done it for the same price. Plus, of course, Amazon are the epitome of capitalism. There’s no doubt they’ve created Amazon Aware to cash in on the market for climate-friendly products out there, when in reality all they’re doing is pushing more and more unnecessary consumerism.
TotalEnergies sued for greenwashing
French energy group TotalEnergies have been targeted by climate activists, who are attempting to sue them for a series of adverts that celebrate their mission to be ‘carbon neutral’ by 2050. Friends of the Earth, ClientEarth, and others have argued that these adverts are completely misleading, given TotalEnergies are also planning to increase their oil and gas production from fossil fuels, including the announcement earlier this year of a multi-billion dollar oil project they’re beginning in Uganda.
Net zero plans of the world’s largest companies are found to ‘lack integrity’
The NewClimate Institute released their Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor 2022 report, analysing the net zero pledges of 25 of the world’s largest companies, and found that they all lack substance and exaggerate the climate action being made.
I mean, are we really surprised?
Companies found to have net zero plans with ‘very low integrity’ are: Accenture, BMW Group, Carrefour, CVS Health, Deutsche Post DHL, E.ON SE, JBS, Nestlé, Novartis, Saint-Gobain and Unilever
Those with ‘low integrity’ are: Deutsche Telekom, Enel, GlaxoSmithKline, Google, Hitachi, IKEA, Vale, Volkswagen Walmart, and Amazon. Yep, that same Amazon who just launched their climate conscious Amazon Aware brand. Just wow.
And the very best of the bunch, with ‘moderate integrity’ are: Apple, Sony and Vodafone.
Retail Week report sees consumers vote H&M, Primark, and Amazon the most eco-friendly
Retail Week released their ‘green is the new black report’, the results of interviews with 1,000 UK consumers about all things sustainability.
When they spoke to interviewees about who the most sustainable retailers are, 35% said they didn’t know or couldn’t think of a sustainable retailer. Of those who did name a brand, the top five most sustainable retailers were named as: H&M, Nike, Primark, M&S, and Amazon.
All of them retail giants who care more about keeping their precious market share than tackling the root causes of climate change.
This has to be the saddest story from the last month, because it proves that the greenwashing marketing techniques of disingenuous brands like H&M, Primark, and Amazon are working. All they need to do is print the words ‘sustainable’ ‘conscious’ ‘greener’ all over their products and marketing, and we’re brainwashed into thinking that buying from these brands is doing our planet good and tackling climate change.
ASA crackdown: Innocent and Oatly adverts banned for greenwashing
On the positive side of greenwashing, the UK Advertising Standards Authority does seem to be cracking down on misleading environmental claims in advertising.
Innocent Drinks had an advert banned for claiming that drinking their smoothie products will ‘fix up the planet’. The advert also included characters picking up rubbish, which is ironic given that Innocent’s smoothie’s come in single-use plastic packaging — let’s not forget that Innocent is now owned by Coca-Cola, who were sued last year for false advertising for claiming that their packaging was sustainable.
Oat milk brand Oatly also had an advert banned, for using the line: “dairy and meat industries emit more CO2 than all the world’s planes, trains, cars, boats etc, combined”. The ASA found that they had “overstated” the emissions of the meat and dairy industry because they hadn’t taken into account emissions from the full life cycle of transport — only emissions from driving the vehicle.
Whilst it is important that environmental claims in advertising are accurate to avoid greenwashing, it’s somewhat disappointing that it was this message from Oatly which came under the firing line. They may have miscalculated slightly, but their broader message that animal agriculture has a big role in carbon emissions is one that needs to be heard. So it’s a shame that this one faced legal action, when compared to all the other greenwashers highlighted above.
Let’s see what next month brings in greenwashing!