Top 10 greenwashing fails

Enhance your ability to identify greenwashing with Top 10 greenwashing fails. Learn from these examples and stay informed.

42% of corporate environmental claims made online are false or deceptive and more than half of online green claims lacked evidence, according to The European Commission’s report.  

Greenwashing is common, with companies using deceptive tactics like incorporating green words on their products or making unverified claims.  

At Jobs For Good we’ve made sure to guard against greenwashing by basing our companies on certain criteria of specifying their mission and purpose. We want to make sure that candidates are applying to honest and true Companies For Good. This is the reason for why we are taking a stand against the big corporates that may have the odd “good” job, when they’re doing more harm than good in the world.  

It's crucial for candidates and consumers to improve their ability to identify greenwashing. To help, we present our Top 10 greenwashing fails for you to laugh and learn from.

Top 10 greenwashing fails

Coca Cola  

One of the most famous brands in the world, Coca Cola announced in 2020 that bottles with 100% recycled plastic would be available around the world. A spokesperson claimed: “Globally, we have committed to get every bottle back by 2030, so that none of it ends up as litter or in the oceans, and plastic can be recycled into new bottles.”

However, in the Break Free From Plastic’s 2021 annual report, Coca Cola was ranked as the world’s number one plastic polluter, the fourth time in a row. Coming under fire as well for claiming that they would not stop producing their plastic bottles because they’re too popular.  

In June 2021, the brand faced a lawsuit due to their eco-friendly advertising whilst they’re still the world’s biggest plastic polluters.

Volkswagen  

In 2015, Volkswagen was marketing their diesel cars in America by claiming they were low-emission and eco-friendly cars. However, it soon became clear that the company had been cheating during their emissions tests.  

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that the cars had a feature in them that could detect when they were being tested and decrease the emissions, when in fact its emissions were up to 40 times the permitted limit.  

Image source: Proexpansión

Starbucks  

It was back in 2018 when the world realised how bad plastic straws are for our oceans, “save the turtles” being the worldwide slogan. Starbucks tried, as any other massive business, to decrease single use plastics in their coffee shops, by creating straw less lids.

However, it was soon discovered that the lid contained more plastics than the plastic straws. Starbucks fired back saying that the plastic was recyclable, but critics pointed out that only 9% of the world’s plastic is recycled and therefore Starbucks shouldn’t assume all their lids would be.  

Image source: Peta on Twitter

Shell

The massive multinational oil and gas company Shell posted a poll on their twitter account in 2020 asking what people are “willing to change to help reduce emissions.” Quickly the tweet went viral as the public criticised the hypocrisy of the question, including activist Greta Thunberg, as Shell is responsible for 1-2% of the global carbon emissions every year.  

A few months later the company fell under order by a European court to reduce their emissions with 45% by 2030. This is the first time its ocurred to a private company with a fixed date and amount – showcasing that Shell’s tweet was an attempt to make them look more eco minded.  

Image source: Shell on Twitter

McDonalds  

Another company that fell under the trend of disposing plastic straws were the fast-food giant McDonald's. In 2019, the chain began a successful sustainable marketing campaign to reduce single use plastics in their UK restaurant, by introducing recyclable paper straws.  

However, environmental experts raised questions around the fact that the paper straws weren’t recyclable. Still, McDonald’s didn’t stop their sustainability marketing campaign and have insisted they are looking into other alternatives, such as the straw less lids like Starbucks – not considering the fact that they’re also made from plastics.  

Image source: Cardiff Student Media

H&M

H&M released its own sustainable clothing line named Conscience Collection in 2012, claiming to be using organic cotton and recycled polyester. As you might’ve guessed by now – turns out it’s not as sustainable as customer might believe when browsing their collection with words like “green,” “eco,” and “sustainable.”  

In 2021, the Changing Markets Foundation published a report exposing the biggest fast-fashion companies eco claims and found 60% of claims were misleading. H&M took the throne with 96% of their claims not holding up. Their collection is still live today – tricking eco customers into buying with a better conscious.  

Image source: The Fashion Law

HSBC  

The Rainforest Action Network announced in 2020 that the major banks around the world are contributing to the climate crisis. This didn’t stop HSBC from creating a marketing campaign highlighting their climate friendly initiative in 2022. Many complained about these advertisements and the ads were then banned for being misleading as the bank ranks 13th for top banks financing fossil fuels in the UK and spent around $9 billion on new gas and oil – which they didn’t highlight in their ads.

Image source: Financial Times

Nespresso  

Nespresso is known for being a less environmentally friendly company because of their single-use pods for each coffee produced in their machines. However, the company launched a recycling program early in 1991 and claim that their pods are recycled.  

Still, the company hasn’t been completely transparent with how the recycling progress occurs. Specialised machinery is needed to fully recycle the pods – which most plants don’t have access to. Therefore, it’s very bold of Nespresso to claim their pods are recyclable when they won’t unveil the process to the public.  

Image source: Earth

Nestle  

In 2018, Nestle announced that they had ambitious of becoming greener with their packaging being 100% recyclable or reusable by 2025. Quickly, people pointed out that the statement had no timeline or targets, along with no transparency into how they would achieve this.  

Greenpeace argued that the claim was simply said to greenwash their customers – Nestle were also on the Break Free From Plastic 2021 report as one of the world's top plastic polluters for the fourth year in a row.  

Image source: Change

Ryanair  

Ryanair is known for a being lot of things but not environmentally friendly – which is why it surprised many when they released a sustainability campaign in 2020, announcing themselves as Europe’s “lowest emissions airline.” The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) quickly banned the ad for being simply made up.   

Image source: Campaign US

If you genuinely want to make a career within impact and not fall for these greenwashing companies – find your career opportunity on Jobs For Good.  

Want to become a greenwashing expert? Make sure to read our blog: What is greenwashing and how do you spot it?