Greenwashing or not?

Lately, I had some discussions with people about big companies and their sustainability efforts. After listening to the audio book to the book ‘Die Diktatur der Konzerne’ (‘The dictatorship of the corporations’) by Thilo Bode, I am even more skeptical about the balance between good and bad impacts of big companies. An example from the book are the international tax evasions by the corporations which cost the nation states huge amounts of money which are missing for investments into the wellbeing of their citizens. According to the book, governments, researchers and media are paid by corporations to report and act to their benefit e.g. by falsifying studies showing that cigarettes, coke and glyphosat are healthy or at least not damaging. They all have huge negative health and environmental impacts, though. Does a coke with less sugar really constitute a healthy drink? It would be much better for people to drink clean tap water or filtered water from natural water sources. For this, we wouldn’t need any of the bottles which are produced and thrown away, usually after carrying drinks which make people ill. But then the companies selling oil, plastics and diabetes medication, etc. would see their profits declining and they obviously wouldn’t want that.


It is also debatable if sustainabilty reporting is really helping companies to improve or if it just supports them in showing how great they are (even when their business models are largely destructive). This goes in line with the seriousness of sustainability strategies. Taking the example of Starbucks, the following article greatly shows why the new strategy is ‘nice’ but not really targeting the important issues with the company:

I recommend you to read this rather short article yourself, but the main point is that Starbucks’ system is designed for (disposable) take-out of largely unhealthy and unsustainable drinks and dishes. Their coffee includes sugar and lots of milk. The first makes it unhealthy and the second causes lots of emissions (not even talking about animal welfare). So they would basically have to change their whole product offer and concept to become a company which could be called sustainable.


Another article directly gives recommendations on how to avoid waste (especially plastics) oneself: Following these rules, people would rather not go to Starbucks but somewhere else.

These are just some examples of corporate unsustainability and irresponsibility. This list could be elaborated for hours (for this e.g. you can listen to the audio book mentioned above). Where would you draw the line between greenwashing and sustainability? When does a company or corporation really act responsibly? Or are they always good because they employ people and offer products which people want to purchase? I don’t agree with the latter, but I am happy to discuss about it.

Source of header image:

3 thoughts on “Greenwashing or not?

  1. Hi Catha, thanks for the blog.
    Maybe Greenwashing can be seen to be a first step. It is start of a process. These companies will certainly not close their businesses at once. Maybe they will change and offer more and more healthy products, maybe not. But certainly not overnight.
    So, when they now start to put some green touches on their face, they at least think about the topic and that might lead to new ways.
    And if all that they do is plant some trees, then at least there are more trees.
    Never give up.


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