Tema 1: Greenwashing

¡La comunicación puede sobrevalorar o infravalorar el rendimiento real de un negocio. Esto se llama «greenwashing» o «greenhushing» respectivamente.

Es interesante observar que el término greenwashing se utilizó por primera vez para la industria hotelera. De hecho, el ambientalista de Nueva York Jay Westervelt lo utilizó en un ensayo de 1986 sobre la práctica de la industria hotelera de colocar carteles en cada habitación promoviendo la reutilización de toallas ostensiblemente para «salvar el medio ambiente». Estos hoteles al mismo tiempo no estaban haciendo esfuerzos para reducir el desperdicio de energía y el objetivo de esta «campaña verde» era de hecho obtener beneficios. Jay Westerervelt calificó este acto de conciencia «greenwashing».

El «greenwashing» se utiliza para satisfacer la demanda inadecuada de los consumidores de productos o servicios respetuosos con el medio ambiente.

Las acusaciones de lavado ecológico se han dividido en 7 tipos. A continuación encontrará la descripción de estos «7 pecados» con ejemplos de la industria turística (Kuehnel, 2011).

Sin 1 The hidden trade-off


A claim suggesting that a product is ‘green’ based on a narrow set of attributes without attention to other important environmental issues.

A hotel states that it uses solar panels for water heating, but the property has no water conservation program. They are therefore, depleting the communities’ water table making the tourism operation unsustainable in the long-term.


Sin 2  No proof


An environmental claim that cannot be substantiated by easily accessible supporting information or by a reliable third-party certification.  

Many restaurants and hotels claim to serve organic food. However, they don’t state from where it is sourced. 

They may also claim that towel re-use is good for the environment, but they seldom provide evidence of how this is measured, especially if housekeeping changes them daily anyway!


Sin 3 Vagueness


A claim that is so poorly defined or broad that its real meaning is likely to be misunderstood by the consumer.

Tourism is about connecting people to beautiful places and it is mostly centered on nature, history and culture. To promote these locales, claims are often made about them being natural, pristine, and well-preserved. It does not mean however, that these areas are being protected or initiatives are being implemented to mitigate the impact of high tourism volume.

Sin 4 Worshiping false labels


A product that, through either words or images, gives the impression of third-party endorsement where no such endorsement exists (fake labels).

There are hundreds of global tourism eco-labels, certifications, accreditations, guidelines and codes of ethics that are adopted by destinations, hotels, transportation and attractions. The lack of an easily recognized certification can lead to the impression that the tourism product is certified “green” when no proper information is provided as to how it is achieved and audited.

Sin 5 Irrelevance


An environmental claim that may be truthful but is unimportant or unhelpful for consumers seeking environmentally preferable products.  

Mega cruise ships spend a lot of time and money to collect recyclable plastic, paper and glass, but since they are unable to store it in the vessel, they often unload this cargo in ports with no recycling facilities where the waste ends up in a landfill. Although there are programs to build recycling facilities in the ports of call, if the final destination of the recycled material is not stated, it may give a false  impression that the cruise ship has fully reduced its waste impact.

Sin 6 Lesser of 2 evils


A claim that may be true within the product category, but that risks distracting the consumer from the greater environmental impacts of the category as a whole.

What emits less carbon, a car, a train or a plane? According to EasyJet’s ads, their planes! The assumptions used to make these claims were erroneous and EasyJet was reprimanded by the UK Advertising Standard Agency for false advertising.  Bottom line is that all of these forms of transports are powered by non-renewable energy and it ultimately comes down to relative choices about which option is less harmful to the environment.

Sin 7 Fibbing


Environmental claims that are simply false.

According to TerraChoice this is the least committed sin. The delegates sincerely wanted to believe that no tourism business would willfully mislead the public. Then we thought that the process of trying to prove a lie is so time consuming and costly that we may never know anyway.

Greenwashing can occur when a top-down mandated approach for risk management fails to embed sustainability in the organizational culture or when enthusiastic grassroots bottom-up initiatives hurry environmental programs without proper capacity building or communication strategy.