Harvard study shows rampant greenwashing by global firms

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Harvard study shows rampant greenwashing by global firms

A commercial plane photohopped with the tail of a shark, hashtags that misleadingly evoke sustainability, tokenistic use of minorities to distract and signal virtue: A Harvard report released on Tuesday shows rampant greenwashing by leading companies on social media.

The investigation, led by Greenpeace Netherlands, involved studying the text and images of 2,300 posts by 22 of Europe's largest carmakers, fossil fuel producers and airlines this June and July.

During the summer of record temperatures and wildfires in Europe, these fossil fuel interests have remained silent on the topic of climate change, instead engaging in what we interpret to be strategic brand positioning, lead author Geoffrey Supran told AFP.

Three Shades of Green washing a report released during the New York City Climate Week found that only one in five green car ads actually present a product for sale, while the rest promote the brand as green.

One in five posts by oil, car, and airline companies center on sports, fashion or social causes that direct attention away from their core businesses.

Two-thirds of companies' social media posts painted a green innovation sheen on their operations, the report found, with automakers generating the most, compared with airlines and oil and gas firms.

Supran said that the strength of the new study was its use of peer-reviewed social science methods to lend more quantitative weight, although there was already awareness around these trends.