SEOUL, Aug. 29 (Korea Bizwire) — A recent study found that four out of every 10 Instagram accounts belonging to large companies in South Korea were found to be posting misleading environmental content, a practice known as “greenwashing.”
This often confuses consumers, making them think the companies are more environmentally friendly than they actually are.
The study was carried out by the Seoul office of the international environmental group Greenpeace, along with 497 citizens.
They looked at posts from Instagram accounts operated by 399 subsidiaries of major corporations, as defined by the Korea Fair Trade Commission, from April 1 of last year to March 31 of this year.
During this time, these companies shared a total of 62,021 image-based posts. Among them, 650 were identified as greenwashing posts. Interestingly, 165 companies (41.4 percent) out of the total posted at least one greenwashing post.
The industries that stood out for having the most greenwashing posts were oil refining, chemicals, and energy (80 posts), followed by construction, machinery, and materials (62 posts), and finance and insurance (56 posts).
When it came to the types of greenwashing posts, the most common (51.8 percent) involved using images of nature inappropriately.
There were also instances of “blame shifting” (39.8 percent), where the companies shifted responsibility for environmental issues onto consumers, and “exaggerating green innovation” (18.3 percent), where they exaggerated their efforts to combat climate change.
According to a survey of citizens, a post by Lotte Chilsung Beverage Co. promoting limited-edition bottled water was deemed the worst case of greenwashing (16.2 percent).
This post featured images of endangered animals on plastic water bottle labels and claimed to be a new environmental initiative.
Greenpeace criticized the company for not mentioning the harm caused to marine life by plastic bottle pollution.
The second worst example (14.2 percent) was an advertisement from a Samsung store for a fanless air conditioner.
The company used its logo on a product that hadn’t actually received an official eco-friendly certification, giving the false impression that it was environmentally certified.
Other instances of greenwashing included logistics-to-airline conglomerate Hanjin Group, which shared an image of an airplane in a forest with the hashtag “Eco-friendly” while promoting a program for South Korean fashion brands, and major refiner GS Caltex Corp., which highlighted citizen engagement without specifying its own efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Greenpeace expressed concern that as more industries adopt greenwashing tactics and become more sophisticated in their methods, it becomes increasingly difficult for consumers to differentiate between genuinely environmentally conscious companies and those that are not.
The organization urged companies to stop engaging in greenwashing marketing, enhance their environmental efforts, take responsibility rather than shifting blame, build trust, and transparently disclose climate-related information.
Lina Jang (email@example.com)