Greenwashing (a compound word modeled on "whitewash"), also called green sheen, is a form of advertising or marketing spin in which green PR and green marketing are deceptively used to persuade the public that an organization's products, aims, and policies are environmentally friendly. Companies that intentionally take up greenwashing communication strategies often do so to distance themselves from their environmental lapses or those of their suppliers.
An example of greenwashing occurs when an organization spends significantly more resources on advertising being "green" than on environmentally sound practices. Greenwashing can range from changing the name or label of a product to evoke the natural environment (for example on a product containing harmful chemicals) to multimillion-dollar campaigns that portray highly-polluting energy companies as eco-friendly. Greenwashing covers up unsustainable corporate agendas and policies. Highly public accusations of greenwashing have contributed to the term's increasing use.
Many corporations use greenwashing to improve public perception of their brands. Complex corporate structures can further obscure the big picture. Critics of the practice suggest the rise of greenwashing, paired with ineffective regulation, contributes to consumer skepticism of all green claims and diminishes the power of the consumer to drive companies toward greener manufacturing processes and business operations.
Greenwashing has recently increased to meet consumer demand for environmentally-friendly goods and services. New regulations, laws, and guidelines by organizations such as the Committee of Advertising Practice mean to discourage companies from using greenwashing to deceive consumers.