Greenwashing in the Food Industry

In support of the environment, you’ve been probably purchasing organic produce or products manufactured in ethical and sustainable conditions. But, in many cases, the “organic” fruits on the grocery’s shelves are no different than the conventional ones. This practice of “portraying an organization’s products, activities or policies as environmentally friendly when they are not” is known as greenwashing. In a world where environmental issues are increasing exponentially, many individuals and companies mislead their consumers by brushing up their image with fake “green” touches. From farmers’ market vendors to multinational corporations, here are a few examples of greenwashing in the food industry.

 

Farmers’ market

Who doesn’t like local farmers’ markets? By stopping by, you’re not only supporting clean agriculture, but also helping your local community and cutting carbon emission.

A CBC News investigation reveals an unpleasant truth about “homegrown and organic” produce displayed at a Canadian farmers’ market. As usual, the vendors had amazing backstories about their products which were supposedly grown in their own farms. Testing the veracity of their confessions, the investigators tracked one of them and found out that he acquired his produce at a wholesale warehouse early morning! Worst, other dishonest vendors didn’t even bother to remove the barcode tag from the fruits’ peels. A similar investigation by The New York Times found out the same lies.

When you go to the farmer’s market, beware of these scams. A barcode tag on any product should be a hint that it was grown hundreds (if not thousands) miles away with synthetic fertilizers.

 

Plastic Water Bottle

There’s no doubt about the detrimental nature of disposable water bottles. They hurt your wallet, contaminate your water with microplastics, fill up landfills, and threaten ocean animals. You’ve been told to use reusable bottles to avoid these problems, but Nestlé had a more creative solution.

A few years ago, the company advertised an Eco-Shape disposable water bottle that was made with 30% less plastic and featured a smaller label. They also praised the bottle’s flexibility which facilitated crushing for recycling, as if recycling was the answer to plastic pollution.  Their blatantly greenwashed advertisement was criticized by a lot of environmental activists.

FIJI Water includes appealing nature landscapes in advertisement campaigns for its disposable bottles and states that “FIJI Water purchase helps reduce carbon emissions and protect Fijian rainforest”. These misleading ads are meant to boost the company’s profits rather than protecting the environment. On the top of selling disposable plastic bottles, FIJI water fails to provide its nearby community access to safe water ーto be precise,  “47% of Fijians don’t have access to clean, safe drinking water” according to the World Health Organization.

 

100% Natural Juice

Whenever I see a bold “100% natural” on a juice pouch, I always wonder why the taste differs from the original fruit. The reason? It’s not so natural.

From the farm to your fridge, the supposedly natural juice undergoes all kinds of processing steps, including the addition of flavor packs. Surprisingly, HuffingtonPost pointed out that these flavors “are not a natural food product but rather are designed by flavor and fragrance companies. Yes, the same companies that make your perfume.” Moreover, bottled juice contains way more sugar than the actual fruit (what makes them “only minimally better than soda”) and chemical additives that are necessary for preservation. Next time you see a “100% natural juice” on the shelf, think twice.

Despite these dishonest marketing strategies, keep in mind that some companies are genuinely supporting the environment and providing healthy food. When looking for eco-friendly options, be vigilant! A vague “Organic” or “Non-GMO” claim on a greenish package doesn’t mean anything if not endorsed by authentic certifications such as USDA.

 

Written by Kelly Jean, Class of 2021
Photo thanks to Pixabay

3 Replies to “Greenwashing in the Food Industry”

  1. Hi, Caspar. Thanks for referencing us! The author of this article Kelly Jean is away for the summer. But if there are specific questions we can help you with on your project please email us. Thanks!!

  2. Hi Patricia,

    Having recently read and referenced your online article, ‘Greenwashing in the Food Industry’, I am getting in contact to seek some advice for my dissertation which revolves around greenwashing in the UK food market.

    I am an MSc Marketing student at Bristol University specialising in sustainability and looking to get involved in a sustainable marketing role following my degree, preferably in bioplastics., With your expertise and knowledge, I would love some help with my project and so if you would be willing to spare some time, I would love to ask a few questions, either via telephone, email or Skype (up to you!).

    Look forward to hopefully hearing from you.

    Kind regards,

    Caspar Carter
    (Bristol University MSc Marketing Masters Student)

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