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Greenwashing or green marketing: keeping up with eco-expectations

Posted by Bethan Rees on 22nd April 2021

Since 1970, the 22nd April has marked Earth Day. Having grown to be an established date in the sustainability calendar, more than 1 billion people in 192 countries across the globe now participate in Earth Day activities — from beach cleans and community litter picks to climate webinars and educational film screenings — coming together to show support for our planet.

On the same date this year, Joe Biden has invited 40 world leaders to virtually attend the Leaders Summit on Climate, in a bid to “galvanize efforts by the major economies to tackle the climate crisis”.

Environmental experts from the IPCC to Sir David Attenborough all point to this decade being the crisis moment for our planet, with 2030 being a tipping point. Beyond this date, if global temperatures continue to increase and carbon emissions are not lowered, then the impacts of climate change will become more disastrous and irreversible.

The pandemic has made many realise the importance of the natural world and taught us about our ability to act in times of crisis. While large-scale charity and government-led global summits and events are vital in educating populations and making steps towards positive change, climate action starts on a smaller scale too, and has certainly rapidly risen up the corporate agenda in response to consumer demand.

In fact, research from Epson has found that younger generations’ — that’s 86% of Gen Z and 79% of Gen Y — eco-expectations are high, with environmentally-conscious consumers paying particular attention to the environmental and social credentials of brands they engage with and buy from.

However, the same consumers are also great at spotting a fake. Many brands have hopped on the sustainability bandwagon, marketing themselves as sustainable without actually minimising their environmental impact — aka greenwashing.

Here are some examples of creative changes from big brands who are taking heed of these growing sustainability demands, taking a green marketing approach, and making a concerted effort to choose business practices that have the least impact on the environment possible.


Renowned for their eco-credentials and ethical ethos, sustainable clothing brand Patagonia has gone one step further and launched its own online ‘thrift store’ in the shape of Worn Wear. Producing clothing that is designed to last, the brand established the site to offer fans a chance to trade, buy and sell second-hand Patagonia goods in a bid to reduce overconsumption of fast fashion items.


With an estimated 10 million tonnes of plastic being dumped into the oceans each year, it’s refreshing to see a drinks brand (whose bottles have undoubtedly contributed to that figure) looking to make a change. Already the makers of the Snap Pack, Carlsberg is now well on its way to creating the world’s first paper beer bottles, made from sustainably-sourced wood fibre.


IKEA has made several sustainability pledges in recent years. By 2030 it wants all plastic in its products and stores to be renewable or recycled material. It has invented an LED lightbulb that consumes 85% less energy than traditional ones, for just 99 cents. And IKEA has created a plant-based food range in its bistros. Demonstrating creativity can go hand in hand with sustainability, IKEA even collaborated with London’s Design Museum back in 2018, creating the ‘Last Straw’ installation, highlighting effort to phase out all single-use plastics from its stores and restaurants by 2020.

Bethan Rees

Cool, calm and collected, Bethan has an ability to rapidly instil confidence in anyone she works with. As a language graduate, fluent in French and German, Bethan also has an innate passion for communication giving her all the qualities needed for a long and successful career in PR. Outside of work, Bethan loves travelling, and also enjoys running and going to gigs with friends.