Calling ‘em Out: The World’s 10 Worst Greenwashers

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As the green movement sweeps the globe, companies, trade groups and government organizations are eager to get a piece of the pie. ‘Green’ can definitely translate into big profits if you do it right – but all too often, these money-hungry entities choose to fudge the facts in an attempt to make themselves seem more environmentally friendly and responsible than they really are. That’s called greenwashing, folks, and here are 10 of the world’s worst offenders.

BP

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(image via: London Rising Tide)

BP’s ad campaign with the theme ‘Beyond Petroleum’ led the public to believe the company was headed in the direction of cleaner, renewable fuels. But, it turned out the company was spending more money on advertising than on green efforts, leading Treehugger to ask, “What does BP stand for these days? Beyond Propaganda? Bye-Bye Planet? Bad Pollution?” After all those greenwashing ads, BP went and dropped $3 billion to buy into oil from the Alberta Tar Sands. Each barrel of oil out of the tar sands generates about two thirds of a ton of CO2, meaning BP’s 200,000 barrels a day will generate about 127,000 tons per day.

American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity

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(image via: ACCCE)

Clean coal isn’t just a contradiction in terms – it’s propaganda. The ‘Clean Coal’ message has been brought to us by none other than a front group for the coal industry – the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity. ACCCE gathered up tons of money from the coal and utility industries and used it to fund a far-reaching effort to convince people that coal can be used in a way that’s not harmful to the environment. ACCCE membership includes Peabody Coal, Duke Energy, Southern Company and American Electric Power and, as we all know, there is nothing clean about coal.

General Motors

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(image via: Greenwashing Index)

Watching these two videos one after the other, General Motors’ unabashed attempt to hype its green cred while also selling Hummers speaks for itself. GM’s ‘Gas-Friendly to Gas-Free’ ad campaign sought to reframe GM as eco-friendly, but the company is still the leading producer of gas-guzzling vehicles and has fought to undermine attempts to improve CAFE fuel economy standards.

ExxonMobil

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(image via: Greenpeace)

It’s not surprising that oil companies are among the worst greenwashing offenders: they’re used to making billions off dirty energy, and they’re getting scared that their revenue streams are going to drop off a cliff once renewables are firmly established. Over the past few years, ExxonMobil has launched a number of ad campaigns touting their supposed new-found commitment to renewable energy and the environment.

Yet, ExxonMobil has consistently funded the climate denial industry for decades, including the Heartland Institute, the Heritage Foundation, the George C Marshall Institute and the American Enterprise Institute. These organizations have colluded with the Bush administration to discredit the EPA’s efforts to fight climate change and offered scientists $10,000 to undermine the findings of the 2007 IPCC report.

ExxonMobil finally stopped funding many of these organizations in the past few years, but the energy giant still doesn’t live up to the rosy impression they’re forcing upon us through these ad campaigns. It is spending just $300 million over the next 10 years researching potential energy sources (many of which are not renewable). Compare that to the $47 billion they spent between 2003 and 2006 developing oil and gas.

Monsanto

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(image via: Sidewalk Sprouts)

Monsanto, the world’s largest seed and pesticide company, is working to convince us that they are supporters of sustainable agriculture – all while monopolizing and homogenizing the world’s food supply. Hardly sustainable. Monsanto, the maker of toxic pesticide RoundUp, has a long history of producing genetically modified seeds, including ‘terminator’ seeds that cannot reproduce on their own, forcing farmers to go back to Monsanto again and again for more seeds.  They’re also the creators of rGBH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), which is given to cows to increase production and often ends up in our water supply.

Check out the documentary ‘The World According to Monsanto’ for an in-depth look at Monsanto’s practices and the threat they pose to the global food supply. Monsanto: “No food will be grown that we don’t own!”

Malaysian Palm Oil Council

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(image via: RedApes.org)

The companies that make palm oil-based products like soap and margarine don’t want you to know that these things are coming to you at the expense of rainforests in southeast Asia. The Malaysian Palm Oil Council is troubled by all of those pesky reports detailing how rainforests are cut down to make way for palm oil plantations, destroying the habitats of animals like orangutans. In short, there’s nothing even remotely sustainable about it – but that didn’t stop Malaysian palm oil producers from running a series of ads with the tagline “Sustainably Produced Since 1917”.

American Electric Power

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(image via: Rising Tide North America)

This utility giant falsely advertised itself as environmentally friendly and concerned about wildlife and animal habitats, while simultaneously destroying those habitats with its emissions, which contribute to air pollution, acid rain, global warming and mercury poisoning.  American Electric Power is also one of the companies behind the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity.

Dow Chemical

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(image via: Greenpeace)

Dow Chemical wants us to think they’re an environmentally responsible company with the best interests of humans and the environment at heart. But since its inception in the 1890s, Dow has polluted property and poisoned thousands of people. Dow created Agent Orange, and its subsidiary Union Carbide was responsible for the world’s worst industrial disaster in Bhopal, India. Dow Chemical has never taken responsibility for or cleaned up the poisonous gas disaster in Bhopal, which killed 8,000 people within two weeks and caused the deaths of an additional 8,000 people in the years since due to gas-related diseases.

Dow Chemical is also skirting its responsibility to clean up the dioxin contamination in the Tittabawasee and Saginaw Rivers in Michigan, claiming that scientific proof does not exist that dioxins are harmful to humans. Dow has been dumping these chemicals in the rivers for more than a century. So much for their regard for “The Human Element”.

Fur Council of Canada

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(image via: Treehugger)

The Fur Council of Canada thought they could pull the dead animal fur over our eyes by claiming that “fur is green”. Yes, they really said that. They claim that fur is “natural, renewable, recyclable, biodegradable and energy efficient.” They even went so far as to call it “the ultimate eco clothing”.  PETA naturally had a response to that: “It takes more than 60 times as much energy to produce a fur coat from ranch-raised animals than it does to produce a fake fur. Plus, the waste produced on fur farms poisons our waterways. And don’t forget … unlike faux fur, the “real thing” causes millions of animals to suffer every year.”

Fiji Water

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(image via: The New York Times)

The quality of most bottled water is no better than tap water, and more than 2 billion plastic bottles end up in the waste stream in America every year. But, that doesn’t stop bottlers like Fiji from claiming that bottled water can be green. The website FIJIGreen.com touts the company’s “progress”, buying carbon offsets and increasing recycling efforts. That’s all fine and good, but the simple fact of the matter is that Fiji water still travels halfway around the world. That’s a lot of wasted fossil fuels, and a lot of emissions.

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