Ten Tactics of ‘Sustainable’ #PalmOil #Greenwashing

Ten Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing - Palm Oil Detectives - 6

What is greenwashing?

At the end of the 20th century, environmental problems began to arise from unchecked capitalist growth. Out of-control global corporates needed strong storytelling and PR to support their continued exponential growth.

The marketing and PR tactics employed to justify the continued growth of these brands and products despite their destruction, is known as:

Greenwashing


There has never been a more urgent time for consumers to wake up to the devastation wrought by global supermarket brands for palm oil


Here’s 10 different ways #consumers are deceived by so-called ‘sustainable’ #palmoil which is a multi-billion $ lie. #Fightgreenwashing with your wallet! #deforestation #extinction #Boycottpalmoil

Here is a ten-part series abt #greenwashing by ‘sustainable’ #palmoil lobbyists, certified #palmoil is a greenwashing lie according to @greenpeaceUK @EIA_News @foeint @sumofus @mightyearth @NZZ @AP #Boycottpalmoil

Jump to section


1. Greenwashing with Hidden Trade-Off

2. Greenwashing with No Proof

3. Greenwashing with Vagueness

4. Greenwashing with Fake Labels

5. Greenwashing with Irrelevance & Deflection

6. Greenwashing by Lesser of Two Evils

7. Greenwashing by Lying

8. Greenwashing with Design & Words

9. Greenwashing with Partnerships, Sponsorships & Research Funding

10. Greenwashing by Gaslighting, Stalking, Harassment & Attempting to Discredit Critics


Explore the Series

Further Reading on Palm oil Greenwashing and Deceptive Marketing

Send in examples to me

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1. Greenwashing with a Hidden Trade Off


Claiming a brand or commodity is ‘green’ using a narrow definition or series of characteristics


For example, when a brand talks about satellite monitoring to stop palm oil deforestation, however deforestation continues to take place or perhaps even accelerate in spite of this, that’s ‘Hidden Trade-Off’


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Greenwashing Tactic #1: Hidden Trade Off: Claiming a brand or commodity is ‘green’ using a narrow definition or set of characteristics. #Boycott4Wildlife #Boycottpalmoil #FightGreenwashing


2. Greenwashing with No Proof


Claiming a brand or commodity is ‘green’ without any supporting evidence


Making baseless claims is one of the easiest greenwashing tactics. For example when an advertisement claims that a product has several environmental benefits, but the company can’t back up these claims with any scientific data or evidence.


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Greenwashing Tactic #2: No Proof: Claiming a #brand or #commodity is sustainable without any evidence. We’ve had enough of #greenwashing lies to sell so-called ‘sustainable’ #palmoil #Boycottpalmoil #FightGreenwashing #Boycott4Wildlife


3. Greenwashing with Vagueness


Claiming a brand or commodity is ‘green’ or ‘sustainable’ based on broad generalisations, unclear language or vague statements


For example having vague requirements for certification schemes like the RSPO that are easily manipulated or where loopholes or vagueness in certification standards can be exploited by RSPO members.

10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing - Tactic 3 Vagueness
10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing – Tactic 3 Vagueness

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Greenwashing Tactic #3: Vagueness: Claiming a brand or commodity is green by using vague generalisations or by having vague guiding principles which are subject to #corruption. We #Boycott4Wildlife #Boycottpalmoil #FightGreenwashing

4. Greenwashing with Fake Labels


Claiming a brand or commodity is green based on unreliable, ineffective endorsements or eco-labels such as the RSPO, Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) or FairTrade coffee and cocoa.


Most certifications and eco-labels add a ‘green sheen’ to brands. Yet according to Greenpeace – even the most respected certifications in the world rarely have a positive environmental and social impact.

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Greenwashing Tactic #4: Fake Labels: Claiming a brand or commodity is green by using fake certifications such as @RSPOtweets that do not stop #deforestation #landgrabbing. We #Boycottpalmoil #Boycott4Wildlife #FightGreenwashing

5. Greenwashing with Irrelevance & Deflection


Claiming a brand, commodity or industry is green based on irrelevant information


A common greenwashing tactic is to shift the conversation towards a an irrelevant issue that deflects from the environmental issue at hand.

For example, palm oil lobbyists steer online conversations away from criticising ‘sustainable’ palm oil or calling for a boycott of palm oil, towards other topics that are irrelevant.

10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing - Tactic 5 Irrelevance deflecti on
10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing – Tactic 5 Irrelevance deflecti on

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#Greenwashing Tactic #5: Irrelevance and Deflection: A common greenwashing tactic is to shift the conversation away from criticising sustainable #palmoil towards an irrelevant topic. #FightGreenwashing #Boycott4Wildlife #Boycottpalmoil

6. Greenwashing by Lesser of Two Evils


Claiming that brand, commodity or industry is greener than others in the same category in order to excuse ecocide, deforestation, human rights and animal rights abuses


For example, the main justification for using palm oil over other oil crops by palm oil lobbyists is: “Palm oil uses less land than other oil crops. Therefore, even though this crop is causing indigenous land-grabbing, ecocide, deforestation, fires, species extinction and causing air and water pollution – it’s still better than other oils”

10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing - Tactic 6 Lesser of Two Evils
10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing – Tactic 6 Lesser of Two Evils

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#Greenwashing Tactic #6: Lesser of Two Evils: Claiming a commodity or industry is #greener than others in the same category, to excuse #ecocide #humanrights #animalrights abuses #Boycott4Wildlife #Boycottpalmoil #FightGreenwashing

7. Greenwashing by Lying


Telling outright lies over and over to consumers, or skillfully omitting the truth in statements, until the lies are believed as truth


Brands and food agriculture lobbyists generate blatant lies that appear in advertising or on social media. The lie could be falsifying support from respected authorities or individuals on environmental issues. The lie could also be a turn of phrase which ‘massages the truth’ for consumers.

‘Deforestation by fire is prohibited for RSPO members’

Yet in reality, deforestation is allowed to continue by palm oil traders, manufacturers within that certification scheme.

10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing - Tactic 7 Lying
10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing – Tactic 7 Lying

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#Greenwashing Tactic #7 Lying: Telling outright lies over again to #consumers until they are believed as truth. This is commonly done by #palmoil lobbyists and global food companies #Boycott4Wildlife #Boycottpalmoil #FightGreenwashing

8. Greenwashing with Design & Words


Using design principles and greenwashing language in order to trigger emotional and unconscious responses in consumers


Some examples of greenwashing design include:

  • Hand-drawn typography and fonts.
  • Pastel colours or blue and green hues.
  • Hand-drawn or vintage and nostalgic animals and children illustrations in packaging and advertising design that bring to mind children’s books.
  • Happy, uplifting and nostalgic music.
  • Visual storytelling involving nature.
10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing - Tactic 8 Design and Words
10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing – Tactic 8 Design and Words

Share this insight on Twitter…

Greenwashing Tactic #8: #Design and #Words: Using subliminal design principles and #greenwashing #language to convey ‘greenness’ to #consumers. We #Boycott4Wildlife #Boycottpalmoil #FightGreenwashing

9. Greenwashing with Partnerships, Sponsorships & Research Funding


Using corporate partnerships, sponsorships and research funding to give a commodity, an industry, certification scheme or supermarket brand a ‘greener’ reputation


Global supermarket brands that are members of the RSPO provide sponsorship money to Zoos, city councils in the UK and small businesses in order to push the lie of sustainable palm oil to school children and unaware consumers.

Corporate partnerships, sponsorships and research funding are easy ways to gain legitimacy and win consumer trust.

10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing - Tactic 9 Partnerships Sponsorships
10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing – Tactic 9 Partnerships Sponsorships

Share this insight on Twitter…

#Greenwashing Tactic #9: Using #corporate #partnerships, #sponsorships and #research #funding to give a #commodity, #industry or
a #brand a ‘greener’ reputation. #Boycottpalmoil #FightGreenwashing #Boycott4Wildlife

10. Greenwashing by Gaslighting, Harassment, Stalking and Attempting to Discredit Critics


Attempting to humiliate, gaslight, discredit, harass and stalk any vocal critics of a brand, commodity or industry certification in order to scare individuals into silence.


Greenwashing’s most insidious and darkest form is the attempt to discredit, humiliate, harass, abuse and stalk individuals in order to stop them from sharing information with others about corporate corruption.

Targets of this kind of greenwashing could be researchers, conservationists, activists, investigative journalists, whistle-blowers or concerned and aware consumers who delve too deeply into issues, such as corruption in the palm oil industry.

10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing - Tactic 10 Gaslighting Abuse
10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing – Tactic 10 Gaslighting Abuse

Share this insight on Twitter…

#Greenwashing Tactic #10: #Gaslighting #harassment #stalking attempting to discredit critics of an industry, certification scheme or commodity. We #Boycott4Wildlife #Boycottpalmoil #FightGreenwashing

10 Tactics of Sustainable Palm Oil Greenwashing - Summary

Explore the series


#Fightgreenwashing in the products and brands you buy!


We concerned consumers of the #Boycott4Wildlife movement says NO to the bloated, toxic industrial complex that underlies all of our consumer goods.

#Boycott4Wildlife #Boycottpalmoil #FightGreenwashing

Further reading on palm oil, greenwashing and deceptive marketing

A Brief History of Consumer Culture, Dr Kerryn Higgs, The MIT Press Reader.

A Deluge of Double-Speak (2017), Jason Bagley. Truth in Advertising.

Balanced Growth (2020), In: Leal Filho W., Azul A.M., Brandli L., özuyar P.G., Wall T. (eds)Responsible Consumption and Production. Encyclopedia of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. Springer, Cham.

Client Earth: The Greenwashing Files

Contrasting communications of sustainability science in the media coverage of palm oil agriculture on tropical peatlands in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore, (2020), Felicia H M Liu, Vignaa Ganesan, Thomas E L Smith, Environmental Science & Policy, Volume 114, 2020.

Commodifying sustainability: Development, nature and politics in the palm oil industry (2019) World Development
Volume 121, September 2019, Pages 218-228

Earth Day 2021: Companies Accused of Greenwashing (2021), Truth in Advertising.

Effect of oil palm sustainability certification on deforestation and fire in Indonesia, (2018), Kimberly M. Carlson, Robert Heilmayr, Holly K. Gibbs, Praveen Noojipady et al. PNAS January 2, 2018 115 (1) 121-126

Fifteen environmental NGOs demand that sustainable palm oil watchdog does its job, (2019), Media release. Rainforest Action Network.

Gibt es nachhaltiges Palmöl? Satellitenbilder zeigen: Auch auf zertifizierten Plantagen brennt es immer wieder’, (2021), Adina Renner, Conradin Zellweger, Barnaby Skinner, Neue Zürcher Zeitung.

Green Clean, (2021), Cathy Armour (Commissioner, Australian Securities & Investments Commission). Company Director Magazine.

Greenwash and spin: palm oil lobby targets its critics, (2011), Alex Helan. Ecologist: Informed by Nature.

Group Challenges Rainforest Alliance Earth-Friendly Seal of Approval, (2015), Truth in Advertising.

Green marketing and the Australian Consumer Law, (2011), Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Greenwashing: definition and examples. Selectra

Greenwashing of the Palm Oil Industry, (2007), Mongabay

Greenwashing: The Darker Side Of CSR, (2011), Priyanka Aggarwal, Shri Ram College of Commerce (University of Delhi). Indian Journal of Applied Research 4(3):61-66 DOI:10.15373/2249555X/MAR2014/20

How Cause-washing Deceives Consumers, (2021), Truth in Advertising

‘Is there such a thing as sustainable palm oil? Satellite images show protected rainforest on fire’, (2021), Neue Zürcher Zeitung, Adina Renner, Conradin Zellweger, Barnaby Skinner.

Kellogg on Branding in a Hyper-Connected World, (2019), Alice M. Tybout (Editor-in-Chief), Tim Calkins (Editor-in-Chief), Kellogg School of Management, Northwestern University.

No such thing as sustainable palm oil – ‘certified’ can destroy even more wildlife, say scientists, (2018), Jane Dalton. The Independent.

Palm oil watchdog’s sustainability guarantee is still a destructive con, (2019), Environmental Investigation Agency.

Plantation Life: Corporate Occupation in Indonesia’s Oil Palm Zone. Tania Murray Li, Pujo Semedi, (2021), Duke University Press.

Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil is ‘greenwashing’ labelled products, environmental investigation agency says, (2019), Annette Gartland. Changing Times Media.

RSPO: 14 years of failure to eliminate violence and destruction from the industrial palm oil sector, (2018), Friends of the Earth International.

Sustainable palm oil may not be so sustainable, (2018) , Roberto Cazzolla Gatti, Jingjing Liang, Alena Velichevskaya, Mo Zhou, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 652, 2019, Pages 48-51, ISSN 0048-9697.

Sustainable palm oil or certified dispossession? NGOs within scalar struggles over the RSPO private governance standard (2019): Working Paper No. 8,
Bioeconomy & Inequalities; Wicke, Janis.

Sustainable palm oil? RSPO’s greenwashing and fraudulent audits exposed, (2015) Ecologist: Informed by Nature.

Sustainable Palm Oil? Who Knows, Thanks to Derelict Auditors, (2015), Kirby, David, Take Part.

Sustainability standards in global agrifood supply chains, (2021), Meemken, EM., Barrett, C.B., Michelson, H.C. et al. Nat Food

Study in WHO journal likens palm oil lobbying to tobacco and alcohol industries, (2019), Tom Miles. Reuters

The palm oil industry and noncommunicable diseases, (2019), Sowmya Kadandale, a Robert Martenb & Richard Smith. World Health Organisation Bulletin

The palm oil industry and noncommunicable diseases, (2019), Sowmya Kadandale, a Robert Martenb & Richard Smith. World Health Organisation Bulletin 2019;97:118–128|

The Time Has Come to Rein In the Global Scourge of Palm Oil, (2021), Jocelyn Zuckerman. Yale Environment 360, Yale School of Environment.

Truth in Advertising: Green Guides and Environmentally Friendly Products, Federal Trade Commission: Protecting America’s Consumers.

‘What do Millennials think of palm oil? Nestlé investigates’, (2021), Flora Southey. Food Navigator.

What is Greenwashing and How to Tell Which Companies are Truly Environmentally Responsible, (2021), Hewlett Packard.

Have you come across greenwashing like this online or in person?

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Palm Oil Detectives is completely self-funded by its creator. All hosting and website fees and investigations into brands are self-funded by the creator of this online movement. If you like what I am doing, you and would like me to help meet costs, please send Palm Oil Detectives a thanks on Ko-Fi.

Published by Palm Oil Detectives

Hi, I’m Palm Oil Detective’s Editor in Chief. Palm Oil Detectives is partly a consumer website about palm oil in products and partly an online community for writers, artists and musicians to showcase their work and express their love for endangered species. I have a strong voice for creatures great and small threatened by deforestation. With our collective power we can shift the greed of the retail industry and influence big palm oil to stop cutting down forests. Be bold! Be courageous! Join me and stand up for the animals with your art and your supermarket choices

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