SUWON, Sept. 2 (Korea Bizwire) – Being green is a good thing, and it’s clear that mankind as a whole needs to take care of the natural habitat we have been bestowed with. But a recent survey revealed that many companies are taking advantage of this sentiment by falsely promoting their products, practicing what is called greenwashing.
Greenwashing is a form of propaganda used by marketers to deceive consumers by creating the perception that products are environmentally friendly.
According to the Gyeonggi Research Institute (GRI), a recent survey it conducted revealed that four out of 10 consumers (40.3 percent) were not aware of greenwashing whatsoever, while one in every 10 people (10.6 percent) had suffered some form of damages from the practice.
In its report “The State of Greenwashing and Needed Tasks”, the market for products labeled ‘eco-friendly’, including daily products, electronics, and business equipment, grew from 1.5 trillion won ($1.3 billion) in 2001 to 37 trillion won in 2014.
Consumer faith in eco-friendly products was high as well, with 73.7 percent of the 1,000 individuals surveyed answering they trust products with labels indicating environmental friendliness, while another 48.8 percent said that they take the presence of an eco-label into consideration when purchasing a product.
As is the case, the number of “greenwashed products” has also increased.
In a 2012 study by the Korea Consumer Agency (KCA), 46.4 percent of investigated products featured unsubstantiated claims of eco-friendliness, illegitimate eco-friendly certification labels, or were disguised as officially recognized environmentally friendly goods. The KCA’s 2010 study arrived at a similar conclusion with the figure slightly higher at 50.2 percent, said the GRI.
The GRI study further revealed that consumers tend to think children’s products are most susceptible to the practice of greenwashing, followed by food and beverages, and organic agricultural products.
Lee Jung-im, a senior researcher at the GRI, pointed out that these disguised products not only harm the environment but also create consumer distrust in actual eco products, resulting in adverse effects for both society and the economy.
“There needs to be a more systematic maintenance of these products by establishing a civil complaint system so that consumers can report false products, and that can assist with refunds and compensation,” said Lee. “Furthermore, there must be clear guidelines established to outline what constitutes the illegal use of eco-friendly labels and advertising, and authorities must strengthen their efforts to crack down on companies that make habitual use of greenwashing.”
By Joseph Shin (firstname.lastname@example.org)