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The term ‘Greenwash’ was coined by environmental activists to denounce misleading advertising campaigns made by industrial corporations to depict themselves as more environmentally friendly and ecologically conscious than they actually were. There is no consensus over an appropriate definition of ‘greenwash’ but a simple and clear one is: ‘disinformation disseminated by an organisation so as to present an environmentally responsible public image’. The origin of this name derives from ‘whitewash’, defined as ‘an attempt to stop people from finding out the true facts about a situation’. Similarities with the term ‘brainwash’ (‘make someone believe something by repeatedly telling him that it is true and preventing any other information from reaching him’) can also be underscored.

Further reading:

Greer, J., Bruno, K. (1996) Greenwash: The reality behind corporate environmentalism (pp. 28-30). Penang, Malaysia: Third World Network.

Karliner, J. (2001) A brief history of greenwash. CorpWatch. March, 22, 2001.

Kerret, D. (2005) ATTICLE: Greenwash or Green Gain? Predicting the Success and Evaluating the Effectiveness of Environmental Voluntary Agreements 1. Penn St. Envtl. L. Rev., 14, 31-721.

Lightfoot, S., Burchell, J. (2004) Green hope or greenwash? The actions of the European Union at the World Summit on sustainable development. Global Environmental Change, 14(4), 337-34.

Lyon, T. P., Maxwell, J. W. (2011) Greenwash: corporate environmental disclosure under threat of audit. Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, 20(1), 3-41.

This glossary entry is based on a contribution by Marco Grancagnolo 

EJOLT glossary editors: Hali Healy, Sylvia Lorek and Beatriz Rodríguez-Labajos

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