Greenwashing: Three Leading Offenders

Greenwashing is carried out by many companies and organizations as part of their PR strategy. Separating spin from substance is a challenge for consumers and citizens.  When companies Greenwash, the put together misleading marketing copy to make consumers believe that what they are doing are actually in the best interest of the environment.  The fact is, it’s usually just the opposite.

Here are a few corporate offenders of greenwashing:

British Petroleum (BP)

The world’s third largest energy company, BP spent around $200 million in 2000 on a major re-branding exercise. Its focus was now “Beyond Petroleum.”

In 2007, BP began investing in oil extraction in the Canadian tar sands. As previously reported on this site, the tar sands represent one of the most polluting activities on the planet. Greenpeace Canada described BP’s move as “the biggest environmental crime in history.”

BP was awarded a “Greenwash Gold Medal” in 2012 by activists protesting the company’s position as a “sustainability partner” of the London Olympic Games. Protesters cited its involvement in the Canadian Tar Sands, its Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, and its commitment to oil exploration in the Arctic region.



With its slogan of “Produce More, Conserve More” and its claim to engage in “sustainable agriculture”, agri-giant Monsanto stands accused of turning greenwashing into an art form.

A former chemical company, Monsanto has pioneered research into genetically modified crops (GMO) and the use of biological patents.

Among its marketing transgressions:

  • Its popular weed killer Roundup was described in a 1996 advert as “safer than table salt.” Monsanto withdrew the ads following a ruling from the the Attorney General of New York.
  • In 1999 Monsanto cited “cultural differences” in its use of language in a series of ads in the United Kingdom which were described by Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority as “confusing, misleading, unproven and wrong”
  • Across the English Channel, Monsanto was fined 15,000 Euros for claiming that glyphosate, a major ingredient of Roundup, was biodegradable. The substance is classified by the European Union as “dangerous for the environment.”
  • In 2012, a Brazilian Court fined Monsanto $250,000 for false advertising. The judge described Monsanto’s adverts as “abusive and misleading propaganda.”


Dow Chemical

Dow Chemical‘s $60 billion revenue in 2011 makes it the second largest chemical manufacturer in the world. One of its slogans is Healthier Oil for Healthier Living:

“By exploring what’s possible in hydro, solar, water and related categories Dow is helping move the world towards a more sustainable and affordable energy future.”

As well as its history in manufacturing nuclear weapons, napalm and the defoliant agent orange, many human rights organizations also maintain that Dow is morally and legally responsible for the ongoing effects of the Bhopal chemical disaster of December 1984. The leaking of highly toxic gas from the pesticide plant in northern India resulted in the death of over 20,000 people. The Bhopal plant was owned by Union Carbide, who were taken over by Dow in 2001.  Dow denies any legal responsibility for the tragedy or for the ongoing compensation of victims.
What about closer to home? Any greenwashing examples you’ve seen recently?