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Identify and avoid greenwashing

More and more companies are creating an environmentally friendly and sustainable image for themselves through modern indulgences, specially created seals and catchy advertising slogans, without there being any real basis for this. However, greenwashing is not always clearly distinguishable from sustainable projects, as the Rewe case shows, for example. Here chicken meat was calculated climate-neutrally for a reforestation project in the Peruvian rainforest. Actually a good sounding thing, if the rainforest project had actually existed. However, this was not the case because this project did not meet the basic requirements for compensation projects. The case ended up in court, the group is no longer allowed to advertise with climate neutrality and was finally awarded a “Goldener Windbeutel“, a mockery price.
Therefore, today we want to devote ourselves to the topic of recognizing and avoiding greenwashing.

What is greenwashing – where is greenwashing done?

A climate-friendly, sustainable, ecological image is becoming increasingly important for many companies. Consumers are becoming more and more aware of the harmfulness of some products and their own behavior. Products that are particularly harmful to the climate and the environment are therefore being questioned. The affected companies have to react – only this does not always happen in a desirable way. There are many methods of greenwashing, of which we would like to name just a few. For example, everyone knows advertising with self-imagined certificates that simulate an organic seal and suggest special environmental compatibility. Advertisements that promote a gluten-free product, for example, are also popular – disregarding the fact that the product does not contain gluten per se. The implementation of legally prescribed reductions in CO₂ emissions is also often presented as an internal contribution by the company. When it comes to greenwashing, companies do not always make untrue statements. The green message is true – but it is often intended to distract from the core business, which is actually not green at all. This makes it difficult, if not impossible, for the consumer to check the greenwashing statements. One of the biggest problems for consumers is that the production chains and transport routes are hardly traceable.

The only way to climate neutrality

The only way to climate neutrality is through sustainable and honest certificates or a real conversion of production. So either a company reduces the CO₂ emissions in its production chain, or it invests in CO₂ certificates from recognized climate protection projects, the proceeds of which actually flow into sustainable, certified projects. In areas where CO2 emissions are unavoidable and reduction measures are no longer effective, certificates offer an effective contribution against global warming.
Standards for certifying CO2 emission reductions are, for example, Verra (Verified Carbon Standard) or the Gold Standard. These are non-profit organizations that, in cooperation with providers such as TÜV, ensure that the certified projects are really sustainable. These standards ensure that greenhouse gas emissions are actually reduced to the desired level and that the additionally communicated social benefits from the projects are also achieved in reality. Only programs that demonstrably lead to the reduction of greenhouse gases are entitled to be certified by these organizations. In addition, value is placed on the fact that certified projects are not only good for the local environment, but also have a positive effect on the local population. The Alliance for Development and Climate provides a good overview of serious compensation standards.

What can the individual do?

Which seal to trust? The end consumer in the supermarket should be attentive and shop consciously. Especially seals that are only available on products from certain manufacturers or only in certain shops should make you suspicious. The website of the Federal Environment Agency, for example, provides a helpful and good overview of truly sustainable labels and certificates.
Greenwashing is not always easy to recognize – but with a little thought it can also be avoided.


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