Environment in Crisis


Dioxin Case Study
Impact Assessment
Tunnel Case Study

Wingecarribee Case Study
Front Groups
Greenhouse Case Study

Paradigms and Systems

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Public Relations
Major Firms
Dealing with Environmentalists
The Green Olympics


A more up to date version of this module can be found at http://www.herinst.org/BusinessManagedDemocracy/environment/PR/index.html


Greenwashing, Greenscamming and Greenspeak are all different terms for public relations efforts to portray an organisation, activity or product as environmentally friendly.

Greenwash derives from the term whitewash and indicates that organisations using greenwash are trying to cover up environmentally and/or socially damaging activities, sometimes just with rhetoric, sometimes with minor or superficial environmental reforms. Similarly Greenscamming indicates an element of fraud and deception and refers to the practice of using environmental names for groups or products that are not environmentally friendly. Greenspeak is a more neutral term meaning environmental language, jargon and terms. It is sometimes used to indicate environmental language that lacks substance, is not genuine or is merely empty rhetoric. Greenspeak is also used by anti-environmental groups to derogatively refer to arguments made by environmentalists.

Environmental public relations, or greenwash, has been a response to the rise of environmental concern, particularly in the late 1980s. Many firms responded with green marketing campaigns in an effort to portray their products as environmentally friendly and capitalise on new markets created by rising environmental consciousness. Green imagery was used to sell products and caring for the environment became a marketing strategy. For example, plastics once advertised for their throw-away convenience were now touted as recyclable.

Additional References:

Corporate Europe Observatory, The Climate Greenwash Vanguard, November 2000.

Corporate Watch, Greenwash Awards, Transnational Resource and Action Center (TRAC).

David Edward, Greenwash - co-opting dissent, The Ecologist, May/Jun 1999, pp. 172-4.

Greenpeace, Green or Greenwash? A Greenpeace Detection Kit, 1997.

Jed Greer & Kenny Bruno, Greenwash: The Reality Behind Corporate Environmentalism, Malaysia: Third World Network, 1996.

Judith Richter, Engineering of Consent: Uncovering Corporate PR Strategies, The Cornerhouse Briefing 6, 1998.

John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton, Toxic Sludge is Good For You! Lies, Damn Lies and the Public Relations Industry, Monroe, Maine: Common Courage Press, 1995.

Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber, Trust us! We're Experts, New York: Putnam, 2001.

Corporate Counterstrategies against Campaigners, Corporate Europe Observer.

PR Watch - check out past issues.

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© 2003 Sharon Beder