• “Behaviour or activities that make people believe that a company is doing more to protect the environment that it really is” Cambridge Dictionary
  • “…conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are environmentally friendly” Investopedia
  • The term was coined by Jay Westerfeld in 1986 regarding the hotel ‘save the towel’ movement – which was actually about saving costs.

Who is doing it?


What they say

  • Signed Paris Climate Accord, an international treaty on climate change, in 2015. Commits nations to keep global warming under 2 degrees C, and preferably 1.5 degrees –
  • Reporting reducing amounts of carbon emissions – UK emissions ‘fell by 44% between 1990 and 2019’ – ONS figures reported in article 2 February 2021

What they do :UK

  • Allowing new oil and gas fields to be developed in the UK – UK government approves new oil and gas field after finding it ‘would not significantly affect environment’ – Independent article 1 February 2022
  • Approving new coalfields – First new deep coal mine in UK for 30 years gets go ahead – Guardian article, 2 October 2020
  • Using the Ukraine crisis as a smokescreen, reconsidering the 2019 ban on fracking – Fracking review ordered as Tories consider ‘all energy sources’ amid Ukraine war – Mirror article, 5 April 2022.
  • Proposing to use windfall tax on energy companies to fund extraction of more fossil fuels – UK tax plan incentivises oil, gas producers to pump more fossil fuels – Reuters article 27 May 2022; Loophole could let North Sea oil and gas giants slash UK windfall tax bill – Guardian article 29 May 2022
  • Reducing financial support for renewable energy production –
  • Agreeing to extend use of coal at Drax – ‘Drax agrees to extend life of coal-fired power units over winter’ – article in Guardian 6 July 2022
  • Failing to count the UK’s imported carbon emissions in its calculations, although these amount to 50% more than domestic emissions – Climate reporting in the UK offers an incomplete picture of the nation’s climate impact- Inside Track article 4 July 2022

What they do : EU

  • Voted to class gas and nuclear power as ‘green’ – ‘Putin rubbing hands with glee’ after EU votes to class gas and nuclear as green -Guardian article 6 July 2022

Our MPs

What they say

Graham Stuart – “I consider climate change to be one of the greatest challenges we will face in our lifetime” – response to letters from constituents June 2022

What they do

  • “Graham Stuart generally voted against measures to prevent climate change” –
  • Voted not to require ministers to have due regard to the target of net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 when taking actions including setting up agricultural subsidy schemes – 12 October 2020
  • Voted not to require a “climate and nature emergency impact statement “ as part of any proposal for financial assistance under a UK Internal Market Act – 29 September 2020
  • Voted not to call on the government to develop and implement a plan to eliminate the substantial majority of transport emissions by 2030 – 5 February 2020
  • Voted not to reduce the permitted carbon dioxide emission rate of new homes – 3 May 2016
  • Voted against requiring a strategy for carbon capture and storage for the energy industry- 14 March 2016
  • Voted to apply the Climate Change Levy tax to electricity generated from renewable sources 14 July 2015
  • Many more examples in

East Riding of Yorkshire Council

What they say

Declared a climate emergency in 2021

What they do

  • Failed to amend policy guidelines to allow climate change issues to influence decision making
  • Approval of new oil fields at West Newton

Fossil fuel companies


  • Says it fully supports the Paris Agreement goals and that it is aiming for ‘net zero’ emissions by 2050. But it is is still committed to exploring for new sources of oil and gas and does not have any plans to reduce the overall amount of oil and gas it produces by 2030. Company wants to grow its fossil gas operations till this occupies over half its business by 2030. Between 2010 and 2018 it dedicated just 1% of its long-term investments to sources of low-carbon energy. – the Greenwashing Files


  • Fossil fuel giant BP changed their name to Beyond Petroleum and publicly added solar panels on their gas stations. In December 2019, an environmental group called ClientEarth lodged a complaint against BP for misleading the public with its advertisements that focused on BP’s low-carbon energy products, when more than 96% of its annual spend is on oil and gas. – 2 August 2021


  • Drax frequently repeats the claims that by moving from coal to biomass it is “enabling a zero carbon, lower cost energy future”, that it has slashed its emissions by 85% since 2012, and that its Drax power station is “Europe’s largest decarbonization project” – on its website pages, on YouTube, in its Annual Report for investors, to the press, and so on.
  • However, Drax’s claim that wood biomass – which made up 75% of its electricity generation in 2020 – can actually be considered a ‘zero’ or even low-carbon source of energy, like wind or solar energy, is widely disputed.
  • Drax’s burning of wood biomass has been found to produce higher levels of CO2 from smokestacks than its coal did, but these combustion emissions are allowed to be counted as ‘zero’ under international carbon accounting principles and EU and UK law, on the basis that any deforestation should be counted elsewhere, at the forest level. – – the greenwashing files

Companies using fossil fuels and derivatives

  • Fashion industry – uses Higg Material Sustainability Index to justify ‘green’ advertising – but this only looks at a selective part of a material’s life cycle. H&M, Zara and Uniqlo are among the companies that were caught greenwashing over the years. These fashion brands contribute to the massive amounts of textile waste caused by the clothing industry. According to the fashion nonprofit ReMake, 80% of discarded textiles globally are incinerated or landfill-bound, with just 20% being reused or recycled –
  • Volkswagen- A classic example of greenwashing is when Volkswagen admitted to cheating emissions tests by fitting various vehicles with a “defect” device, with software which could detect when it was undergoing an emissions test and altering the performance to reduce the emissions level. This was going on while to the public the company was touting the low-emissions and eco-friendly features of its vehicles in marketing campaigns. In actuality, these engines were emitting up to 40 times the allowed limit for nitrogen oxide pollutants –
  • Coca-cola – , in June 2021, environmental organisation Earth Island Institute filed a lawsuit against the beverage giant for falsely advertising that it is sustainable and eco-friendly despite being the largest plastic polluter in the world. –
  • Banks – The past several years have seen major financial institutions talking a big game about combating climate change yet these are more examples of companies exercising greenwashing strategies. JP Morgan, Citibank and Bank of America have issued new “green investment” opportunities. However, a report released last year by the Rainforest Action Network showed that big banks – the ones mentioned above, but also including Wells Fargo, Barclays, Bank of China, HSBC, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank – were still lending enormous sums to the industries that contribute the most to global warming, like fossil fuels and deforestations, while boasting that they’re the leaders of the green transition –