Top 10 greenwashing marketing strategies

Greenwashing is a set of marketing techniques that will allow you to portray your company as eco-friendly and sustainable (whatever that may mean) without actually being so. In this helpful guide (with examples), we present you with the best tricks so you can continue harming the planet with a clear conscience and full pockets while deceiving your customers.

Official color palette you should use to make your business green and sustainable. Photo by Lucas George Wendt.
Greenwashing color palette, which you should use in your eco and sustainable communication. Picture by Lucas George Wendt.

1. A correct color palette is key

Any statement that uses green (you know, plants are green) or optionally blue (because water and the sky are blue) automatically becomes sustainable and eco-friendly. So, use it in any shade you can and add it wherever you can. This way, your logo, website, packaging, gas stations, and ultimately, your company will automatically become more environmentally friendly.

British Petroleum presents itself as the greenest company on the planet after destroying hundreds of miles of coastline.
By changing your logo to a beautiful flower and turning all your gas stations emerald green, no one will remember that you killed thousands of animals and polluted hundreds of miles of coastline.Source:

2. Use an empty language in your communications

You should always use words and phrases that sound pleasant and positive, but lack real substance or meaning. Your company has to be green, sustainable, and eco-friendly. All your products should be natural, vegan, eco-whatever, and clean. Your emissions of gases should be net zero.

H&M is the most conscious company. Is sustainable because it pays its workers a pittance.
Sustainability, consciousness, no waste. H&M has it all in this campaign, making us conscious of the problem it causes with the low-quality clothes it sells, using very cheap labor working in deplorable conditions in its workshops. Source: European Journal of Sustainable Development.

3. Statistics and science are on your side

Feel free to use numbers that don’t mean anything. You can put whatever you want as long as only someone with a PhD and access to a laboratory can prove what you are saying. Your products can have 15% less plastic or 10% recycled plastic or 50% more WTEVR.

Pro tip: Remember, acronyms are your friends.

4. Always think ahead

Never implement your plans within the next 5 or 10 years. It’s best not to specify the timeframe at all. “we plan to…” or “we aim…” are the perfect words. Set a distant horizon, like 2030 or 2050, then no one will remember what you’ve promised. With a bit of luck, half of them will have died by then.

BASF presentation with its plans to be a green and sustainable company by 2050.
BASF, a leading chemical company in greenhouse gas emissions, “aims” to produce net-zero emissions by the year 2050. Also note the term “net-zero”. Source: YouTube.

5. Use suggestive images

Beautiful mountain landscapes spread out before you, coral reefs full of little fish, forests, flowers, fields, lakes, grass, leaves, etc. The greener and the more animals the better.

Pro tip: if you add babies, all the better. Babies are the consumers of the future (see previous point).

Coca-Cola life ad. All very natural and green.
Of course, the leading company in ecological and healthy products could not be missing among the examples. Here again, also pay attention to the language (life, natural) and the color selection. Source: New Coca Cola campaign.

6. Make irrelevant communications

Emphasize your good intentions, your company policies and strategies or a small attribute that you have managed to improve in your products. This way you can continue to pollute and destroy the planet without worrying.

British Petroleum is trying to be net zero (by 2050 of course).
British Petroleum, apart from its renewed logo in the shape of a green flower, presents itself as a company committed to the net reduction of CO2 emissions (by 2050 of course). Does this include all the emissions or only from the first week of this year? Watch out for the good use of color and the forest. Source: BP.

7. Change the packaging from time to time

Once a year does not hurt. Change the packaging of your products, but don’t forget to make it green, mention that now you pollute less and that they emit less carbon. But how much…? it doesn’t matter, just give a figure or two, nobody will check it (see point 3).

Pro tip: don’t forget to add the prefix “eco-” to your packaging or product name.

Ecological coal. Yes you read it right,  eco-coal.
The perfect packaging to sell coal.Now in addition to eco, with 40% less emissions and 80% less smoke (although I would say that there is a smoke screen there). Source: this shop.
New packaging presentation on twitter for a slug killer product that is less polluting and eco.
New less polluting and more ecological and natural packaging for a product used to kill snails. Source: Twitter.

8. Emphasize a single attribute

You can always find something environmentally friendly in your company. Even if it’s just giving recycled toilet paper to your employees (yes, the kind that scratches, but don’t worry, they’ll tough it out for the planet). That’ll be more than enough, and you can proudly post about it on your favourite social media platforms. And if you can’t think of anything else, you can always go wild and start planting trees, just don’t forget to water them afterwards.

Announcement of Skoda's intention to plant 70,000 trees by 2023.
Car manufacturer Skoda “aims” to plant 70,000 trees by 2023. Will they achieve it? Place your bets. Of course the ad uses a correct palette of greens. Source: LinkedIn.

9. Blame it on the consumer

In other words, the classic move of shifting the blame onto someone else. It’s not you who pollutes, it’s those consumers who just won’t recycle. But fear not! If we make it crystal clear on the packaging, your company can proudly claim to be sustainable by using recyclable materials and slapping on that recyclable logo. And hey, it’s the consumers who go out and buy it, so they’re the ones responsible for the dirty work, right? By nailing this strategy, you won’t have to worry about a thing. Remember, the customer is always right, but they’re also to blame for your pollution.

Nestlé Pure "life" water ad.
Please recycle. If it says so clearly. Also another good example of the use of empty language and good use of color and percentages by Nestle, the company that consumes the most plastics in the world. Source: Olive Taylor.

10. Lie (or use inaccurate information)

If you have no other choice, a little white lie won’t hurt anyone. It’s the riskiest yet most cost-effective strategy, as long as you don’t get caught. So go ahead and use it, but remember, it’s entirely on your shoulders and under the watchful eye of a grown-up CEO (who’s willing to resign). If you do get caught, you can always claim you were just “presenting slightly imprecise information” or that it’s all true but just an “alternative truth” and that the company’s CEO has already resigned so everything has been resolved.

Advertisement for Volkswagen's "clean" diesel engines that in the end (surprise, surprise!) turned out to be not so clean.
Example of perfect use of empty language and this last strategy although it didn’t work out so well with Volkswagen’s clean diesel cars. Oops… In the end Volkswagen’s “clean” TDI engines turned out (surprise, surprise…) to be not so clean. Source: Business Insider. Business Insider.


Since this is the Internet and there are all sorts of people out there, it’s worth clarifying that this is an article packed with irony and good humor. It’s written with the sole purpose of helping you identify when someone is trying to sell you an eco-story. To the affected companies, just a friendly reminder that I’m reproducing their ads completely free of charge, so… you’re welcome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.