Marketing Campaigns That Backfired From Greenwashing

What Is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is the act of promoting a brand or products as environmentally friendly when they are not sustainable, solely for marketing purposes. It is a deceitful marketing strategy aimed to mislead consumers into thinking that a brand's products are environmentally friendly to increase sales. Many companies have been criticised for greenwashing, and consumers are becoming more vigilant and are not afraid to call brands out. Let's look at some brands that have been criticised for greenwashing in the past.

Brands Criticised For Greenwashing

There are many brands that have been called out for greenwashing in recent years. No company wants to be accused of greenwashing, so it's important to know what it looks like and how to avoid it.

Lipton Iced Tea

The brand’s advertisement for their Lipton Iced Tea was showcased on bus shelters with headline text stating ‘Deliciously Refreshing, 100% Recycled*’. The sly asterisk hidden in the headline linked to smaller text at the bottom of the advertisement stating ‘Bottle made from recycled plastic, excludes cap and label’.

Many people complained about this advertisement being misleading and commented that it implied the entire Lipton bottle was made from recycled plastic. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) ruled that this ad was deceptive and must not appear in the form complained about again.

Hyundai NEXO

In 2021, Hyundai released an advertisement for their new vehicle, NEXO. The ad stated, “Introducing the next generation of fuel cell vehicles: All-New NEXO. A car so beautifully clean, it purifies the air as it goes”. However, the brand faced numerous complaints regarding the statement questioning its legitimacy and was criticised for being deceptive.

The ASA acknowledged that air filtration systems within the car would filter air before it was used. However, they also understood that particulates from the brakes and tires would still be released into the air. Therefore, they ruled that consumers would most likely misunderstand the advertisement headline because they believed the car had insignificant environmental impacts and would assume that if they wanted to limit their emissions, this would be the car to purchase. However, this is not the case, and the ASA took action and prevented Hyundai from using this ad format for future campaigns.


In 2019, Ryanair released a series of print, television and radio advertisements that featured messaging that stated ‘Europe’s Lowest Fares, Lowest Emissions Airline’. All the advertisements mentioned the brand’s low CO2 emissions, which the ASA deemed misleading.

The brand had compared its emission statistics to four other airlines. As a result, consumers reading their claims of being the lowest emission airline would assume that any airline they may have heard of in the broader market produced more emissions than Ryanair, which is not true. Therefore, the ASA confirmed that these advertisements spread misinformation about other airlines and the company itself.  

Innisfree’s Paper Bottle

The popular South Korean beauty brand Innisfree came under fire last year for their misleading packaging, when it was discovered that their ‘paper bottle’ packaging actually contained plastic. The brand apologised for causing confusion, however many consumers remained dissatisfied at the lack of accountability from the brand, labelling the products as greenwashing.

What Can Brands Do To Avoid Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is something that all brands must avoid, and consumers should be more aware of the marketing ploy. It’s essential only to share information about your brand if it’s factual and not misleading. Ensure to back up any sustainability claims with accurate, verified data and make your claims easy to understand. With measures in place to catch unauthentic brands, more legitimate eco-friendly brands can shine above the rest as sustainable companies making a positive difference to our planet!

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