Sustainability or greenwashing?

Before addressing the topic, it is important to remember the concept of sustainability: a way to promote the satisfaction of current needs without compromising future generations. In other words, it is necessary to comply with an ethical requirement: intergenerational equity!

Intergenerational equity requires not excessively burdening the present generation with current expenses that generate future wealth with deferred costs over time; nor excessively burdening the future generation with expenses that have benefited the previous generation.

On the other hand, greenwashing is the false impression or “contrary” information about the environmental nature of a company’s products. This recognises an intentional attitude of concealing information about the environmental impact or nature of products from consumers.

Therefore, the questions to be asked are: i) does greenwashing affect sustainability or not?; ii) in case of a positive or negative response in what dimensions?; and, iii) is it possible to estimate this impact? From the interaction between the three concepts, the answer is understandable: it is a clear yes!

Such a response must be analysed in light of a holistic approach, as the result arises from the interaction of multiple dimensions:

  1. Ethical dimension – the lack of transparency and procedural virtue fundamentally destructures any level of trust in the governing sphere of a society
  2. Psychological dimension – as a result of the previous point, distrust prevails and does not allow for true sharing or a spirit of cooperation (self-defence mechanism)
  3. Environmental dimension – resources are not managed in light of the principle of intergenerational equity

In short, it is possible to estimate the impact of greenwashing on sustainability. However, it requires an improved cost/benefit analysis model to relate quantitative and qualitative elements through the study of the value chain (for example).