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!