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Should We Call Out Greenwashing? | Change the Conversation

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Calling out greenwashing often gives people a pass on talking about how to make real progress. 

By Tri Vo

At CarbonBetter, we get a little nervous every time we see the term greenwashing come up. We definitely understand why it comes up, as there are some deceptive or unsubstantiated claims that have been well-documented. We also understand that with an increase in societal awareness comes more PR and marketing efforts, which can sometimes lead to embellished or inaccurate statements. With this uptick in climate change-related communication, we see greenwashing used more and more, but should we be calling out greenwashing when we see it, or is there a better way to handle it?

green·wash (noun)


Disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.

Companies make claims that are not always accurate, and while calling something greenwashing can sometimes be used as part of a well-reasoned argument, it’s increasingly used as an easy catch-all term to suggest nefarious communications. Simply labeling something as greenwashing in this way can be dismissive, and it gives people a pass to not talk about the problems or the challenges.  

If we are to move forward, we need to encourage discussion and urgent steps in the right direction. To drive impact, we cannot afford to be dismissive – we need to include anyone willing to engage. Calling something greenwashing, without providing clear pathways for true impact, serves to make companies think twice before stepping out and talking about climate. But, we have to talk about climate – urgently – even if we get it wrong sometimes. We should encourage everyone to engage because the world needs every willing participant to get off the sidelines and work on real progress.

Calling something greenwashing also disregards the nuance involved in fighting climate change. There are many different perspectives on the path forward, and what is and isn’t impactful is not always clear. Without compassion, without taking the time to understand different points of view, we are hamstrung in our approaches to addressing climate change. We just don’t have the time to do it any other way but constructively and together. No company, no person, no perspective will save the world alone.

We can do better than standing on the sidelines and labeling what may be real attempts at progress by others. Instead, let’s lift each other up by continuing to look for ways we can all do better. Because in the end, even the smallest steps in the right direction add up to a big impact, but we’ll never get there if we’re all hamstrung by fear we may publically get it wrong sometimes. We need to have more conversations and do less finger-pointing.

Explore more stories in our Change the Conversation series.

Tri is the founder and President of CarbonBetter. He expanded his energy business beyond logistics to help tackle climate change from the inside. When he’s not helping his team support energy and decarbonization clients, you can find him spending time with his family. Connect with Tri on LinkedIn and subscribe to be notified about new stories.