person holding plastic cups that were littered that have 'eco' written on them

Green: The Color of Profits and Politics

How ‘greenwashing’ enables companies to profit from the eco-friendly movement while contributing to environmental destruction

Social Issues
By VoiceBox ·


Sam is a fresh graduate who is interested in new experiences in her personal time, and in sustainability as a young professional. She is a big fan of LOONA, loves spending time with her family and friends, and is trying to balance a successful work life amidst all of this

Green: The Color of Profits and Politics

There is a YouTube channel that has gained popularity recently, called “Chuu Can Do It” (’지켜츄’), centered around being an eco-friendly citizen or everyday eco-friendly practices. However, the industries of the companies that sponsor them are some of the heaviest offenders of the environment.

Only 100 fossil fuel companies are found to be responsible for 70% of the world’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions (Hyman, 2020). However, the push to purchase electric transportation has yet to fully coincide with integrating greener energy sources.

Lastly, it was found that only 15 companies generate nearly 630 million tonnes of GHGs annually, making them a bigger emitter than Australia, the world’s 15th largest annual source of GHGs (Axelroad, 2019). However, it feels like there’s no greater guilt than accidentally using a plastic straw at your local Starbucks.

There’s an episode of The Patriot Act with Hasan Minhaj titled 'The Ugly Truth of Fast Fashion', which talks about the pitfalls of the speed at which trends come and go and the way the fashion industry has adjusted to it. “Eco-Awareness”/”Eco-Living” has become integrated into daily life with the enhanced consciousness brought about by social media and the worsening environment. And on the consumer level, I do think that this movement is heavily influenced by politics.

With the use of a good amount of marketing—such as the aforementioned YouTube channel—many of the big businesses have been able to shift the majority of the blame of ecological demise onto consumers, shouldering us with the responsibility of making things better through purchasing from them again. This time, from their ‘eco-friendly’ product lines.

Companies capitalize on both the celebrity-worship culture and the eco-warrior movement to gain power over the mass market and make profits from an even larger demographic of consumers while doing barely anything to actually improve the state of things on their end. They use their power—monetary and influential—to gain more by pushing consumers to spend more for their ‘greener alternatives’ while simultaneously doing much of the leg work for eco-friendly change.

As a huge advocate of sustainable practices, I am, therefore, not completely absolved of guilt as I do still frequently fall for greenwashing in my attempt to be better for the environment. I perpetuate the power that these businesses hold over consumers by reinforcing the ideas they market by talking about and purchasing from them. However, this may not totally be a bad thing. While the movement is flawed, consumers on the day-to-day level can still truly make a significant amount of positive impact by living eco-friendly lives. It should, however, not be a one-sided effort. We should be demanding more from these companies because we, as consumers, control the movement of business through what gets purchased and what gets ignored. Therefore, we also have the power to demand change on the side of the corporations as well.


Hyman, E. (2020, January 2). Who’s Really Responsible for Climate Change?. Harvard Political Review.

Axelrod, J. (2019, February 26). Corporate Honesty and Climate Change: Time to Own Up and Act. Natural Resources Defense Council.

Suggested Articles

  • vapes in assorted colors lined up on a colorful background
    Vaping: The New Youth Epidemic?

    Vaping: The New Youth Epidemic?

    A VoiceBox feature piece exploring the appeal, risks, and mental health implications of young people vaping

  • White desk with a white light, plant and clock
    The Benefits of Minimalism

    The Benefits of Minimalism

    A sustainable way of life for the environment and your happiness

  • person scrolling on their phone
    What I, as a Liberal, Think We Can Learn From Right-Wing Media

    What I, as a Liberal, Think We Can Learn From Right-Wing Media

    Why we all need to "diversify our sources of information and engage in free thinking"