As an environmental studies minor we talk a lot in my classes about “green washing,” in which public relations or advertising will make a product seem environmentally friendly in order to attract a certain target market, when in reality it isn’t. This particular ethical dilemma hit closest to home to me because as a future public relations practitioner wanting to work in the environmental field I foresee this being an issue. I saw the other day in the store bottled water called “Ethos Water” that donates a portion of the purchase to solving the world’s “clean water crisis ” But it’s ironic that while trying to solve one environmental problem, they are ignoring the fact that purchasing bottled water is a very unsustainable habit, an by doing so encouraging another environmental problem. Some businesses are using public relations to push the environmental movement because it’s trendy, but those businesses are the ones who are creating a lot of the environmental problems. I think public relations can be used as a great tool, I think it is a needed tool. When a company has a legitimately environmentally friendly product, or they are doing something good for the environment it’s essential for PR to get that message out, but I think there should be a stricter monitoring of what certain things can be called “sustainable” or “eco-friendly” so people are actually helping the environment rather than exploiting it.
This video from “The Greenwash Blog” does a good job of listing ways companies can lead you into falsely believing a product is actually good for the environment: