It was Green Britain Day last week, brought to you by French energy giant EDF, Électricité de France. The message, plastered over billboards, newspapers and the Internet, was difficult to escape.
Unfortunately for EDF, the enormous amount of publicity around the campaign included the voice of renewable energy provider Ecotricity, who exposed EDF for greenwash, and drew attention to the many activities of the company which are anything but ‘green’.
There are a growing number of companies wanting to improve their image by appearing green and sustainable, whether they are or not. The green marketing campaigns that result run the risk of drawing negative attention to their behaviour. EDF are now being scrutinised for their use of nuclear power, continued use of coal and associated emissions, and their lack of investment in renewable energies. It makes you wonder whether this would have happened had they never sought to run a green campaign.
On one hand, it’s likely that this image-doctoring is largely successful; the campaigns never undergo scrutiny, and therefore fool many people. On the other, in an era of increasing transparency of companies’ behaviour and scepticism of their marketing messages, I wonder whether it pays off for companies who jump blindly onto the sustainability bandwagon.