The corporate greenwashing of unsustainable practices: how bad can it possibly be?

John Deery investigates the WWF's support of corporate greenwashing that aims to distract from companies' unsustainable practices.

Jon Deery
6th March 2021
Image: Wikimedia Commons
Companies have recently seized WWF’s campaign about a ‘world without nature’ to greenwash their brands. What’s disappointing this time is that WWF seems to be endorsing such hollow action.

On the 3rd of March, World Wildlife Day, WWF joined with large corporations, NGOs, and sports teams in removing natural imagery from their logo. The iconic WWF panda faded away for a full day, 'to highlight the dramatic loss of biodiversity globally and the social and economic risks it poses'.

From such a valuable global conservation organisation, this image could have been a powerful symbolic reminder of the mass extinction event we’re living through. But since their social media accounts shared and praised the logo changes of unsustainable corporations, it just comes across as a cheap publicity grab.

Image: Nick Youngson https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode Alpha Stock Images

Investigations by Greenpeace International have found that Unilever’s claims to only buy 'sustainable' palm oil are absurd attempts from the company to greenwash their brand, but WWF gives them a high rating for sustainability and continues to work with them on large conservation projects.

Dove, which removed the dove from its logo, is owned by Unilever. According to WWF’s own website, Unilever have bought more than a million tonnes of palm oil. Investigations by Greenpeace International have found that Unilever’s claims to only buy 'sustainable' palm oil are absurd attempts from the company to greenwash their brand, but WWF gives them a high rating for sustainability and continues to work with them on large conservation projects.

The 2019 Melbourne Climate Strike, featuring actual environmental activists protesting corporate greed.
Image: Wikimedia Commons

Ospreys, a leather company not associated with Unilever, took the hawk from their logo. The sale of leather contributes to the profits of the beef industry, which is notoriously cruel to animals and a major emitter of greenhouse gases. WWF still retweeted both of their new logo tweets.

Perhaps a better way to celebrate World Wildlife Day would be to remove all the items of plastic with their company’s logos on them from the ocean.

It’s ironic that, in attempting to convince consumers that they care about the welfare of animals, companies actually provided us with perfect symbols of their environmental neglect. The bird may have disappeared, but the Dove logo remains recognisable. Perhaps a better way to celebrate World Wildlife Day would be to remove all the items of plastic with their company’s logos on them from the ocean. 

WWF are obviously not in the same hypocritical position as these damaging companies. It should also be said that they did endorse mostly football teams, who aren't major polluters, and a good few genuinely sustainable businesses. But really, they’ve missed an opportunity with this campaign to call out those partaking in greenwashing, publicly, and demand accountability.

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