Greenwashing – fake green/ecology marketing
M. Lukinović,1 L. Jovanović2
Fundamental and Applied Researches in Practice of Leading Scientific Schools, 33(3), 15-17.
Abstract: In this paper are presented the forms of fake green/ecology marketing, above all,
greenwashing, their manifestations and adverse impacts. Through examples from the practice,
the legal solutions within comparative law are presented, with a special emphasis on the
solutions in the Republic of Serbia. The adverse impacts of greenwashing can hardly be
measured, above all due to high indirect impact they have on the consumers (creation of
mistrust, skepticism, confusion, aversion towards green products).
Keywords: green marketing, greenwashing, corporate social responsibility, ecological
Realization that the planet’s resources are not limitless, as well that disturbing the nature leads
towards impairment of human health, have impacted the development of the idea of necessity
for reduction of use of natural material sources (Premovic, Djokic, Arsic, 2018). An
increasing number of producers and service providers, in an attempt to gain competitive
advantage, resorts to marketing through representation of ecological virtues of their products
(Miletić, Ničić, Janković, 2017). Sustainable development and nature preservation have
become two very important topics that preoccupy not only environmental activists, but the
customers as well are becoming more and more aware that the environment is not the same as
it was before, and thus express interest for ecological products. The growing environmental
conscience has led towards the appearance of interest of consumers regarding whether the
product is healthy, what is its impact on the environment, what consequences does it have to
the environment after the end of its life cycle, etc. (Cajka, Jovanovic, Radosavljevic, 2017).
1 Faculty of Law, Union University, Belgrade, Serbia.
2 University Alfa, Belgrade, Serbia.
Strengthening global competition, the increase of educational and cultural level of customers,
as well better flow of information has led towards reflections that see the reduction of
environmental pollution as an advantage. As synonyms for the concept of green marketing,
the terms sustainable marketing, environmental marketing and green marketing are also used
(Kumar, Lata, 2014).
The negative impact of the humanity on the environment and raising environmental
awareness have influenced the consumers, and thus the new approaches to marketing. By
promoting green concept in the media, the awareness of consumers regarding the environment
has significantly improved, which lead to introduction of elements of corporate social
responsibility. Consumers like to link themselves with socially responsible companies, and
stressing the specifics of quality of green products contributes to higher effectiveness of
marketing (Ferrell, Hartline, 2012).
The Interbrand Company creates a list of the best green products in the world every year. The
ranking is conducted on the basis of data provided by the Deloitte audit firm that assesses
environmental performance of the best global brands based on 83 indicators from six different
fields (products and services, management, stakeholder involvement, activities, procurement
chain, transport and logistics).
The American Marketing Association (AMA) was the first one to provide a definition of
green marketing in 1975: “green marketing is the research of positive and negative aspects of
marketing activities to pollution, energy draining and depletion of non-energy resources”
(Tolušić, Dumančić, Bogdan, 2014). Still, the most quoted one is the definition of green
economy provided by UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme): “economy which
results lead towards improvement of human well-being and social equality, while significantly
reducing the environmental risks”.
Green marketing is based on propagating through reduced use of natural resources, lesser
energy consumption, reuse of packaging and its parts, and recycling (Begić, 2015).
The word “green” has become the symbol of the fight for the environment. Numerous
companies, in order to improve their image or sails, represent their products as “green”
(Manić, Riznić, Miletić, 2017).
The research show that up to 7 out of 10 customers are eager to pay a 20% higher price for
eco-friendly products (CSG Releases Guide to Buying Green Infographic). On the British
market, a total of 73% increase in presence of “green” products on the market nowadays is
recorded in comparison to 2009 (Pauley, 2019), of which, more than 95% represent in fact
greenwashing (TerraChoice, 2010).
Greenpeace defined greenwashing as “the act of cheating the consumer regarding the
environmental responsibility of the company or the ecological benefit of their products and
services” (Derville Gallicano, 2011).
The term greenwashing or eco-manipulation refers to the more and more occurring practice of
companies to spend more time and funds on creating the image of ecological orientation
through commercials and marketing campaigns than on conducting activities intended for
reducing the negative impact on the environment within the business. The said companies
build their image by “painting” themselves and their products/services green, even though that
represents eco-manipulation (Kozbasic, 2019).
Environmental marketing Company TerraChoice has defined “the Seven Sins of Eco-
Manipulation” in 2008 as following:
1. declaration of a product as a green product (only on the basis of one unacceptable broad
criterion and without giving significance to other, sometimes more important aspects of green
2. lack of proof (stressing “green” features of a product without any relevant proof);
3. vagueness (unclear or too broad definitions formed with the attention of leading the
customer towards wrong assumptions);
4. insignificance (stressing the “green” feature that is completely insignificant);
5. open lie (stressing the “green” features of a product that are not true);
6. showing the lesser of two evils (even though the statement is true within the category range
of the said product, there is a possibility that the customer might oversee more significant
aspects of the environmental impact of the said category as a whole);
7. false labelling (creation of an impression that the said product was recommended by a
neutral arbiter or expert in the said field) (Delmas, Cuerel Burbano, 2011).
The term greenwashing is a dominant name for misleading marketing used for the purposes of
promoting products, goals or policies of an organization that increase the total gains of the
said product, but the following terms are also being used: eco-bleaching, whitewash, eco-
washing, green washing, green makeup and green image washing (Kahle, Gurel-Atay, 2015).
The producers deceive public opinion in different ways: from energy companies that promote
themselves on the basis of green technology but base the majority of their business on
technologies that imply fossil fuel combustion, to hotel chains that promote themselves with
the fact that they enable their guests to use sheets and towels numerous times but invest little
effort into water and electricity saving or the use of environmental detergents.
The negative impact of greenwashing is reflected the most through the impact on the
environment and the social impact. Many cases of global greenwashing are also the biggest
polluters. Even though the social impact is not that obvious, it is not less important (Vos,
Within the comparative law, there is no legal definition, nor there are customary doctrinal
elements that legally determine “greenwashing” (Cherry, 2014). In the most cases, the
offenders are subjected to legal provisions regarding false and misleading advertising and the
illegal use of quality labels and standards.
Several governmental and non-governmental agencies of different countries are included in
the process of regulation of the emission of green marketing messages: the Green Guide – the
U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) created in 1998 the „Green Guide“ with the goal of
reducing the fraud potential that is being created by green advertising; the Environmental
Claims Guide – the Canadian Competition Bureau (CSA), in cooperation with the Canadian
Competition Bureau created in 2008 a document entitled „Environmental Claims: A Guide for
Industry and Advertisers“. The Guide represents a set of guidelines for the prevention of
greenwashing; the Green Claims Code – the U.K. Department for Environment, Food and
Rural Affairs (DEFRA) published the Green Claims Code (Stojiljković, 2015); International
Standard Organization created the ISO 14021 Standard, that was later retracted and replaced
with the ISO 14044:2006 Voluntary Standard that that deal with the environmental
management, grades life cycles and determine demands and guidelines for the use.
Within the territory of the Republic of Serbia, the use of marks that stress special features of
goods and services is regulated by the Law on Commerce (the Official Gazette of the
Republic of Serbia, no. 53/2010, 10/2013 and 44/2018 – state law). Special feature marks are
not the recognized quality standards, marks of compliance, marks of geographical indication
of origin, or advertising messages (that stress the features of goods/services without a clear
statement that it is based on conducted research), but marks that make the said goods or
services stand out in comparison to a different offer of the same sort (and that are based on the
conducted independent research). Special feature marks can be used in accordance with the
conditions of issuance of the special feature mark, that is the criteria created by the authorized
issuer of the said mark.
The Advertising Law of the Republic of Serbia the Official Gazette of the Republic of Serbia,
no. 6/2016) stipulates that the advertising message shall be truthful, as well as that is must not
misuse someone’s trust. As deceiving advertising is regarded every advertising that, in any
way, deceives the received of the said advertising message and that might influence his
economic behavior. When determining whether a certain advertising is deceiving, all of its
characteristics are being taken into consideration, and especially every information contained
by the said advertising in relation to the feature of goods or services, such as: the nature,
content, specification, method of use, eligibility for the specific purpose use, the expected
results of the use of the said goods or service, results or other indications of tests and checks
conducted on the said goods or services.
The extensive use of nature has surpassed the limit of self-deception of the environment,
which has led to a strong reaction of activists, followed by a strong reaction of consumers
world-wide. Still, environmental awareness has still not reached a sufficient level in order to
set the things in motion. Because of that, the effects caused by greenwashing are more
devastating than they seem at the first glance. Given that a significant part of consumers like
to link themselves to companies that take care of the environment (Yazdanifard, Mercy, 2011),
such forms of manipulation lead towards the creation of mistrust, skepticism, confusion, and
even repulsion towards the said products.
The damages resulting from greenwashing are multilayered, and it seems that the biggest one
is the cumulative effect of different sorts of greenwashing (abuse, false advertising, frauds and
dishonesty) on the consumers’ trust. In such way, the other efforts in the field of social
responsibility are also crumpling up.
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