Sustainicum Collection

Consus The aim of the project is to establish a regional science-society network for sustainability innovations in Albania and Kosovo in order to strengthen the connection and collaboration of institutions in the field of higher education, research and practice.

Resource facts

  • Independent of the number of students
  • Up to 3 lecture units
  • Internet connection necessary
  • English, German

Resource Description

Greenwashing – Green is not always sustainable(Resource ID: 19)

This building block defines the term “Greenwashing“ on different levels. The students are sensitized to the manipulations of the media, advertising campaigns and image polishing that takes place under the guise of sustainability. 5 modules, that can be extended or reduced, combine media research and analysis with self-reflection resulting in discussions thereon. This building block is well suited to be used in interactive seminars or as a training concept to raise awareness.

Sustainability is on everyone's lips. But the positively connoted term is often used to achieve different goals. Sustainability is good, chic, modern and politically correct. Everybody is for and not against sustainability, people talk a lot about it and some misuse it for their specific purposes. Scientists, medias and companies employ the term but they  do not share their understanding of sustainability or what they do to call themselves sustainable.

Economists call the direct or indirect advertising of sustainable activities 'Greenwashing'. There are different levels of Greenwashing. Even the slightest sustainable action is exaggerated in the media, whereas the advertisement is more expensive than the sustainable activity. Companies often use lies or half-truths in advertisements that are conveyed by public relations to dispel any doubts or apprehensions and increase sales. Others try to keep up the 'green' facade while working against environmental or social regulations or even violating them.

The building block should help students to view PR activities critically and train their analytical skills. This is a step by step process.

At the beginning, the students get 2-3 newspaper articles on 'Greenwashing' – they can be made available via a web platform – that give an overview on the topic. Then the students should research the topic individually or in pairs. They should use different sources like daily or weekly newspapers, magazines or scientific journals, etc. The results are discussed in small groups and in the plenum.

After the first step, a further sensitizing phase follows where media appearances (especially in the web) and advertising campaigns of various companies are analyzed. Sustainability reports, environmental certificates and other so-called sustainable activities are analyzed. As we also come across 'greenwashing' in our every day lives, the students should include these findings in the analysis as well. The modules are concluded with an exchange of ideas and a discussion on the results.

Please note: The attached resources are only available in German!

Learning Outcomes
Encourage and train critical thinking
Relevance for Sustainability
Put sustainability activites into question
Related Teaching Resources
No specific previous knowledge / related resources required
Preparation Efforts
Sources and Links

Only in German!


Dorfer, Tobias: Werbefilm und Wahrheit. RWE - das Märchen vom grünen Riesen. In: Süddeutsche, 17.5.2010, http://www.sueddeutsche.de/wirtschaft/energie-werbefilm-und-wahrheit-rwe-das-maerchen-vom-gruenen-riesen-1.162052

Grimm, Fred: Verlogene Slogans. Nachhaltig? Nein, danke! In: Spiegel Online, 11.7.2010, http://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/soziales/verlogene-slogans-nachhaltig-nein-danke-a-703358-druck.html

Jackisch, Samuel: Das Märchen vom Grünen Riesen. In: Der Spiegel, 11/2012, http://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/unternehmen/greenwashing-das-maerchen-vom-gruenen-riesen-a-666984.html

Koch, Hannes: Übelstes Unternehmen des Jahres. Konzernkritiker verleihen Schmäh-Preis, In: Spiegel Online, 25.1.2011, http://www.spiegel.de/wirtschaft/unternehmen/0,1518,druck-741324,00.html

Neubacher, Alexander: Nachhaltigkeit. Deutschland - ein Ökomärchen. In: Der Spiegel, 11/2012, http://www.spiegel.de/spiegel/print/d-84339485.html

Rickens, Christian: Nachhaltigkeit. Mehr Schein als Sein. In: Manager Magazin, 26.10.2010, http://www.manager-magazin.de/magazin/artikel/0,2828,714172,00.html

Wiebe, Frank: Heilsames Greenwashing. In: Handelsblatt, 12.2.2012, http://www.handelsblatt.com/meinung/kommentare/kommentar-heilsames-greenwashing/6185336.html



ÖBB Nachhaltigkeitsbericht: http://konzern.oebb.at/de/Presse/Publikationen/Nachhaltigkeitsberichte/OBB_Nachhaltigkeitsbericht_2010.pdf, zuletzt geprüft am 26.8. 2013.

OMV Nachhaltigkeitsbericht: http://www.omv.com/SecurityServlet/secure?cid=1255739426122&lang=de&swa_id=1007304506234.0665&swa_site=wps.vp.com, zuletzt geprüft am 13.2. 2013.

Telekom Nachhaltigkeitsbericht: http://www.telekomaustria.com/presse/nachhaltigkeitsbericht_2010_11.pdf, zuletzt geprüft am 13.2. 2013.

Mc Donalds Nachhaltigkeitsbericht: http://www.mcdonalds.at/downloads/katalog/nachhaltigkeit2011/index.html, zuletzt geprüft am 13.2. 2013.

Austrian Airlines Umweltbestrebungen: http://www.austrianairlines.ag/AustrianAirlinesGroup/Environment/EnvironmentalProtectionMeasures.aspx?sc_lang=de, zuletzt geprüft am 13.2. 2013.



EnviroMedia Social Marketing; University of Oregon (Hrsg.): Greenwashinindex, http://www.greenwashingindex.com/, zuletzt geprüft am 13.2. 2013.



NDR (Hrsg): Markt. Wie funktioniert Greenwashing?, 14.5. 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WX7z1wDxh4, zuletzt geprüft am 13.2. 2013.


Funded by
Funded by the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science and Research within the framework of the call "Projekt MINT-Massenfächer" (2011/12)

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Dr. Judith Pizzera


Judith Pizzera
This teaching resource is allocated to following University:
KFUG - Karl-Franzens-University Graz


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