Element Descriptor

Corporations – and governments- will often try to dress up their ecocidal status quo/new batshitfuckery as if it is somehow applauded by clapping seals and smiling dolphins. Spotting that, rebutting that, is kinda essential. Failure means they win the battle for hearts and minds.

Level descriptors

You can spot blatant and clumsy greenwash from the usual suspects (oil companies, coal companies etc) which have been cobbled together by coke-addled PR hacks from a cut-rate PR company. You can spoof it and dismantle its dubious claims.You can spot and successfully refute slightly more sophisticated and slick – even reasonable seeming – greenwash efforts by more cuddly companies, showing the rhetoric-reality gaps and the dangers of being fooled by things we all wish were true.You have an encyclopedic knowledge of the different greenwash techniques used across a range of industries to a range of discrete audiences. You can dismantle expensive and clever campaigns by ‘the good guys’ which have been designed to be critique proof and emotionally compelling. You don’t get invited to many advertising award ceremonies.Companies hold off on releasing their latest “we are saving the planet” advertising extravaganzas until they get confirmation that you have indeed been infected with COVID19 after the cough squad got to you, and that you’re on a ventilator.

Element Overview Essay

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The reason social movement organisations are often victim to greenwash efforts are that it’s generaly really good and slick, andt it goes with the techno optimistic grain. And if you combat it incorrectly, you look like, quote, loony left. malcontents who are never happy. And “gosh, isn’t it good that at least the companies are doing something.”

The consequences of unchallenged greenwash are that the sheeple stay sheeple. And they stay asleep. And that corporations are able to leverage the reputation. And the reputational gloss that they’ve got from the greenwash in battles about whether they should be regulated or taxed, and the status quo is maintained.

And I would like to remind you at this point, that the status quo is going to doom billions of human beings and countless billions of other animals and plants on this planet to a horrible end and that we will be destroying wondrous life that we are doing that. And that greenwash contributes to that by making it harder to see what is going on, what is at stake.

So what is to be done? Educate yourselves on the history of greenwash the word only goes back to the 1980s. The famous example is of the crying Indian advert in 1971.


But groups have been running PR campaigns in support of themselves and their ideology for a long time before that, albeit not necessarily green washing, which is explicitly about burnishing environmental credibility.

So there are books about the corporate propaganda campaigns of the 20th century. Alex Carey. There’s the French guy begins with B can’t remember. Mallencourt?. There’s Ariel Dorfman and Donald Duck.


There’s all sorts of resources about greenwash and corporate manipulations of public mind. You need to be able to explain these carefully. And you need to be able to connect that history with the current examples that you see in front of you. And you need if it’s a government, to be able to local government or national government to be able to talk about all the other things that they’re doing, which undercut whatever tokenistic announcement they’re making. You could also at this point, deploy the idea of HIDE “heroic infrastructure diversion and evasion.” That occurs when there is one good piece of kit is used as a synonym for bigger picture, when in actual fact, that bigger picture is a tale of defeat, lack of innovation and general stupidity.

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