greenwash

1 of 2

verb

green·​wash ˈgrēn-ˌwȯsh How to pronounce greenwash (audio)
-ˌwäsh
greenwashed; greenwashing; greenwashes
1
transitive + intransitive : to make (something, such as a product, policy, or practice) appear to be more environmentally friendly or less environmentally damaging than it really is
… a group of climate-concerned Amazon employees wrote in a Twitter post that the company "greenwashes its emissions growth by saying the year-over-year increase is less than its sales growth. …"Greenwire
The Center for Western Priorities responded to Friday's announcement, saying [Interior Secretary Ryan] Zinke was trying to "greenwash" an abysmal public lands record.Ashton Edwards
Another group of Fortune 500 companies has joined a growing corporate movement against the Sustainable Forestry Initiative … , a controversial industry-sponsored 'eco-label' that greenwashes environmentally damaging products.PR Newswire
It is more cost-effective to strike a politically correct pose than it is to offer consumers a better product. So corporations greenwash.Dave Blount
When a company greenwashes, it deliberately deceives stakeholders about its environmental commitment.Lucia Gatti
2
transitive : to mislead (someone) by means of greenwashing
… on a national level there has been increasing concern over marketing claims being used to "greenwash," or mislead consumers regarding the actual environmental benefits of a product or the pro-environment efforts of a corporation.Wendy Toth

greenwash

2 of 2

noun

plural greenwashes
: something (such as a claim or action) that is intended to make a product, policy, activity, etc. appear to be more environmentally friendly or less environmentally damaging than it really is
… the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has been holding hearings over the past year to define the difference between genuine environmental claims and empty greenwash.Bryan Walsh
… I decided to speak out more forcefully about the PR and Ad industry's role in spreading climate disinformation and greenwash, rather than remaining silent.Christine Arena
… they might be greenwashes—bad-faith attempts to look environmentally sound without changing anything—with lax requirements.Christianna Parr et al.
sometimes used before another noun
greenwash advertising
Climate activist Greta Thunberg expressed concern about nations actually following through on their promises, saying the conference is "sort of turning into a greenwash campaign, a P.R. campaign," for politicians and business leaders who have no intent on real action.Stephanie Parajon

Examples of greenwash in a Sentence

Recent Examples on the Web
Verb
But even with good intentions, anyone can greenwash inadvertently. Solitaire Townsend, Forbes, 11 Feb. 2024 Don’t just greenwash your company with a donation; fully integrate the brand with a bigger purpose. Rolling Stone Culture Council, Rolling Stone, 2 Feb. 2024 In the 2010s, Arena helped the fossil fuel industry greenwash its product as a V.P. at Edelman; since then, she has been called upon to testify about oil companies’ advertising tactics in congressional hearings. Amy Westervelt, The New Republic, 19 July 2023 Climate activists in Africa are expressing anger toward the United Nations climate agency, accusing it of allowing corporations and individuals with dubious climate credentials to greenwash their polluting activities by participating in its annual climate conference. Wanjohi Kabukuru, The Christian Science Monitor, 17 Jan. 2023 The temptation to greenwash is clear. Solitaire Townsend, Forbes, 21 Sep. 2021 To add to this, as principles of regenerative agriculture and soil health gain popularity around the world, pesticide companies have jumped on the bandwagon to greenwash their products. Nathan Donley, Scientific American, 1 June 2021 But the lack of capacity is one reason why some environmental advocates are concerned that carbon removal could give polluters a way to greenwash their operations. Justine Calma, The Verge, 13 Jan. 2023 Some have accused the Egyptian government of using COP27 to greenwash their global image. Armani Syed, Time, 15 Nov. 2022
Noun
Criticism came thick and fast, and the new term ‘greenwash’ had lift off. Solitaire Townsend, Forbes, 11 Feb. 2024 My greenwash inoculations are needed more than ever with the heavy hand of regulation about to drop on unsubstantiated eco claims. Solitaire Townsend, Forbes, 11 Feb. 2024 There is good reason to believe that this talk is more than just greenwash. David Vetter, Forbes, 27 May 2021 With the new claims code and cleaning of the advertising stables, perhaps the greenwash wave will be but a dribble. Solitaire Townsend, Forbes, 21 Sep. 2021 With just 41 days until world-leaders gather at the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow, concerns that similar types of greenwash will become a tidal wave are growing. Solitaire Townsend, Forbes, 21 Sep. 2021 The Qatar World Cup is shaping up to be a quintessential greenwash. Jules Boykoff, Scientific American, 23 Nov. 2022 Consistency in talk and action is a fundamental requirement of avoiding greenwash. Felicia Jackson, Forbes, 10 Nov. 2022 Outside the event campus in Glasgow, meanwhile, activists labeled the whole conference a greenwash and a failure. Katherine Dunn, Fortune, 15 Nov. 2021

These examples are programmatically compiled from various online sources to illustrate current usage of the word 'greenwash.' Any opinions expressed in the examples do not represent those of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback about these examples.

Word History

Etymology

Verb

derivative of greenwash entry 2

Noun

green entry 1 (in sense "preserving environmental quality") + wash entry 2, after whitewash entry 2

Note: Wikipedia alleges that the words greenwash and greenwashing were introduced in an essay by an American environmentalist named Jay Westerveld, but neither Wikipedia nor other online references state where the essay was published (assuming that it was published).

First Known Use

Verb

1989, in the meaning defined at sense 2

Noun

1987, in the meaning defined above

Time Traveler
The first known use of greenwash was in 1987

Dictionary Entries Near greenwash

Cite this Entry

“Greenwash.” Merriam-Webster.com Dictionary, Merriam-Webster, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/greenwash. Accessed 30 May. 2024.

Kids Definition

greenwash

verb
green·​wash
ˈgrēn-ˌwȯsh,
-ˌwäsh
greenwashed; greenwashing
1
: to make (a product, policy, or practice) appear to be better for the environment than it is
2
: to mislead (someone) into thinking that something is better for the environment than it is
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