12 Greenwashing Examples & Tips To Avoid It (2024)

Greenwashing examples

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The demand for “green,” more sustainable alternatives is increasing, and more and more people are looking for eco-friendly options. 

Because of this, we’ve started to see more and more greenwashing, where the companies are taking advantage of us by presenting their products as eco-friendly, where in fact, they might not be as sustainable as presented. 

In this article, you will find a list of comprehensive examples of greenwashing, which will help you understand and avoid it. We’ll go through:

  • What is Greenwashing & Examples
  • 12 Real-Life Greenwashing Examples 
  • How To Spot & Avoid Greenwashing
  • Summary

Let’s begin!

What is greenwashing?

Greenwashing is the deceptive practice of making false or exaggerated claims about the environmental benefits of a product, service, or company.. 

It involves manipulating information, hiding negative outcomes, or selectively presenting positive aspects. This misleading tactic confuses consumers, giving them a false sense of contributing to environmental well-being. 

Greenwashing allows companies to divert attention from their true environmental impact, and oftentimes, they don’t genuinely care for the environment, but their focus is to sell more.

It is essential to be able to differentiate when a brand has authentic efforts for improvement and deceptive practices aimed solely at boosting sales. 

Examples of greenwashing:

Here are examples of greenwashing involving misleading claims: 

  • A fast-food chain with its new packaging is “biodegradable” or “compostable,” suggesting it breaks down naturally. This leads consumers to believe it’s eco-friendly, despite inadequate facilities for proper breakdown. 
  • A cosmetic brand markets a new product as “natural,” but it includes synthetic substances. This can mislead consumers into thinking the product is entirely natural and eco-friendly. 
  • A fast fashion company introduces a new line as “sustainable,” emphasizing recycled materials. However, a significant portion of the items still rely on conventional, unsustainable materials and practices associated with fast fashion. 
  • A car manufacturer promotes its new model as “eco-friendly” due to a minor increase in fuel efficiency. While technically true, the claim may mislead consumers into overestimating the overall positive impact on the environment.
  • Single-use items, labeled “biodegradable” or “compostable”. If these items end up in landfills, they may not degrade as expected, posing environmental challenges.
  • Terms like “pure,” “clear,” “natural,” “green,” and “bio” on product labels. These terms often lack regulatory definitions and can be used for false or misleading advertising claims.
greenwashing examples

12 Real-Life Examples Of Greenwashing:

1. Volkswagen’s “Clean Diesel” Scandal 

Year of Greenwashing Incident: 2014 – 2018 
Criticism Source: Environmental organizations, independent testing, and regulatory authorities 
Type of Greenwashing: Emission manipulation through software
Context: Global automotive industry

Volkswagen falsely claimed that their diesel cars met strict emission standards. However, the vehicles were equipped with software designed to cheat emissions tests, emitting pollutants at much higher levels than allowed. This led to a massive scandal, recalls, legal actions, and a significant blow to Volkswagen’s reputation. (1, 2, 3, 4)

2. BP’s “Beyond Petroleum” Campaign 

Year of Greenwashing Incident: Early 2000s, with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010
Criticism Source: Public and environmental groups, particularly intensified after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster 
Type of Greenwashing: Misleading marketing suggesting a commitment to alternative energy sources
Context: Primarily in the oil and energy industry 

BP’s “Beyond Petroleum” campaign aimed to present the company as environmentally conscious. However, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion revealed a stark contrast, causing one of the most significant environmental disasters in history. (1, 2, 3, 4)

3. Nestlé’s “Green” Water Bottles

Year of Greenwashing Incident: Ongoing concerns 
Criticism Source: Environmental activists and concerned consumers
Type of Greenwashing: Marketing claims of eco-friendly packaging
Location or Context: Beverage industry, specifically in the marketing of bottled water

Nestlé marketed its Pure Life water bottles as environmentally friendly, using terms like “eco-shape” and “eco-slim.” However, critics argue that the overall impact of plastic pollution remains significant, questioning the legitimacy of Nestlé’s eco-friendly claims. (1, 2, 3)

4. H&M’s Conscious Collection

Year of Greenwashing Incident: 2019; ongoing 
Revelation or Criticism Source: Environmental advocates, ethical fashion movements & consumers 
Type of Greenwashing: Advertised environmental benefits without transparency
Location or Context: The fast fashion industry 

greenwashing examples

H&M’s marketing of the Conscious Collection as a sustainable and ethical line has faced criticism. Critics argue that despite the claims of environmental benefits, the inherent impact of the fast fashion industry on the environment and labor practices remains largely unchanged. 

Furthermore, concerns have been raised about the lack of transparency regarding the actual sustainability of H&M’s business model, casting doubt on the authenticity of their environmental claims. (1, 2)

5. Chevron’s “Human Energy” Campaign 

Year of Greenwashing Incident: 2000s 
Criticism Source: Environmental organizations and critics within the energy sector
Type of Greenwashing: Portraying the company as a leader in clean energy solutions
Location or Context: Energy industry, with a focus on oil and gas 

Chevron’s “Human Energy” campaign attempted to present the company as environmentally responsible. However, critics argued that Chevron’s primary focus remained on fossil fuels. (1, 2)

6. Walmart’s Sustainability Index

Year of Greenwashing Incident: Ongoing, particularly in the 2010s and 2020s
Criticism Source: Environmental groups and skeptics within the sustainability sector
Type of Greenwashing: Claims of a comprehensive sustainability index / Misleading labeling of plastic products
Location or Context: Retail industry, specifically in the context of corporate sustainability

Stacy Mitchell’s report criticizes Walmart’s sustainability campaign, stating it has primarily enhanced the company’s image rather than benefiting the environment. Key findings include slow progress in renewable energy goals, a rapid increase in greenhouse gas emissions, and skepticism about the transparency and overall sustainability of Walmart’s business practices. (1, 2

In 2017, Walmart also faced penalties for selling plastic products with misleading labeling, falsely labeled as “biodegradable” and “compostable”. (1

7. ExxonMobil’s “Green” Advertising

Year of Greenwashing Incident: Ongoing, with heightened investigation in the 2000s & 2010s
Criticism Source: Environmental activists and critics within the energy sector
Type of Greenwashing: Emphasizing efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 
Location or Context: Energy industry, specifically in the promotion of cleaner energy solutions 

ExxonMobil’s advertisements highlighted efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, the majority of the company’s investments continued to support fossil fuel exploration and production. (1, 2, 3)

8. Coca-Cola’s PlantBottle

Year of Greenwashing Incident: 2013
Criticism Source: Environmental advocates and concerned consumers
Type of Greenwashing: Emphasizing the use of plant-based materials in bottle production.
Context: Beverage industry, specifically in the marketing of eco-friendly packaging

greenwashing examples

Coca-Cola introduced the PlantBottle, claiming it was partially made from plant-based materials. However, critics argue that the overall impact and sustainability of the PlantBottle remain limited. (1, 2, 3)

9. Royal Dutch Shell

Year of Greenwashing Incident: 2007 and ongoing accusations
Criticism Source: Environmental activists and critical media coverage
Type of Greenwashing: False environmental claims in advertising
Context: Energy industry, with a focus on oil and gas

Shell’s “Don’t throw anything away – there is no away” campaign aimed to portray the company as environmentally responsible. However, the claim of growing flowers from CO2 emissions was found to be false, contributing to accusations of greenwashing. (1, 2, 3)

10. LG

Year of Greenwashing Incident: 2010
Revelation or Criticism Source: Regulatory authorities and consumers
Type of Greenwashing: Misleading Energy Star efficiency ratings
Context: Consumer electronics industry, specifically refrigerators

LG miscertified Energy Star efficiency ratings on its refrigerators, leading consumers to believe they were more energy-efficient than they actually were. This raised concerns about false environmental claims and product efficiency. (1, 2)

11. Fiji Bottled Water

Year of Greenwashing Incident: 2011
Criticism Source: Environmental organizations and concerned consumers
Type of Greenwashing: Misleading claims through packaging and logos
Context: Bottled water industry

Fiji Water faced a lawsuit for deceptive marketing, accused of claiming “carbon-negative” status through a practice called “forward crediting.” The suit argues customers paid more under the impression that Fiji actively reduced carbon emissions. Despite claims since 2008, the offsets may not occur until 2037. 

The lawsuit aimed to halt misleading environmental claims, shedding light on Fiji Water’s questionable practices, including bottling in a diesel-fueled factory and shipping plastic from China. People argue the company’s actions don’t align with its eco-friendly image. (1, 2, 3)

12. Nestlé’s Eco Shape Bottle

Year of Greenwashing Incident: 2011 and ongoing concerns
Criticism Source: Greenpeace and environmental advocates
Type of Greenwashing: Misleading claims about reduced plastic usage
Location or Context: Beverage industry, specifically in the marketing of bottled water

Nestlé’s Eco Shape bottle claimed to use 30% less plastic, but critics argued that the lack of evidence raised questions about the actual environmental impact. Nestle’s Eco Shape bottle for Pure Life Natural spring water is seen as more of a marketing trick than a true eco-friendly effort. 

The claim of using 30% less plastic lacks clear details or evidence about the actual environmental impact. The terms “Pure” and “natural” also raise doubts about the bottle’s authenticity. (1, 2)

greenwashing examples

How To Spot & Avoid Greenwashing:

Terrachoice, a North American environmental marketing consultancy, classified the “seven sins” of greenwashing (1,2), that can help you to recognize it:

  1. Hidden Trade-off – When only a limited range of qualities are shown, to redirect the attention of customers from other significantly negative environmental impacts.
  2. No Proof – When the marketer makes claims which cannot be verified through easily accessible & available information.
  3. Vagueness – When you see the use of a large variety of misleading words such as “pure,” “natural,” “organic,” and “eco-friendly.”
  4. Irrelevance – When there is a green claim which is either insignificant or made under regulatory pressure. 
  5. Lesser of Two Evils – If the marketer makes a valid claim in a particular aspect, but there is an overall hazardous impact on the environment.
  6. Fibbing – Committed by the marketer to make an untrue green claim.
  7. Worshiping False Labels – If there is a demonstration of the environment-friendliness of a product through fake labels and certificates.

3 simple steps to avoid greenwashing:

  • Observe: Greenwashing often includes words and misleading labels, such as pure, natural, earth-friendly, eco-friendly, green, reduced emissions, sustainable development, carbon-neutral, biodegradable, etc. Also, look at the packaging; are there environmental imageries, green colors/packaging, leaves, and animals?   
  • Look for evidence: Do a quick internet browse and get a second opinion from others. Take a look at the company’s website, and try to find sustainability reports to verify the green claims. Look for statistics or any relevant information that can support and prove the statements. 
  • Check reliability: Authentic environmentally friendly products typically carry certifications from well-known organizations like USDA Organic, Climate Neutral, Energy Star, Certified B Corp, or Fair Trade. If a product claims to be sustainable without concrete evidence or certifications, it may give rise to doubts. 
greenwashing examples


It might seem overwhelming, but once you start paying more attention, it will get easier to spot greenwashing.

It is good to be skeptical if something seems too good to be true, and do further research, of companies/products when they seem shady.

Here are the key takeaways to remember:

  • Greenwashing is the deceptive practice of exaggerating environmental benefits to appear more eco-friendly, using tactics like information manipulation. 
  • Examples include a fast-food chain’s misleading “biodegradable” packaging and a cosmetic brand marketing synthetic products as “natural.”  
  • Some real-life instances range from Volkswagen’s emission scandal to Nestlé’s questionable eco-friendly water bottles.
  • Avoiding greenwashing involves observing misleading words, looking for evidence on company websites, and checking for reliability through recognized certifications.

Did I miss a greenwashing product, or is there something else you want to add? Share in the comments below. I’m curious to hear about your experience with greenwashing. 🙂

Greenwashing: What is it, Examples, How to Spot & Avoid Infographic:

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