In the last few weeks a neologism entered the Italian homes. Greenwashing is since many years a well known terminology for the insiders, as its genesis dates back to 1983, when an environmentalist visiting the Fiji Islands read a board in its hotel bathroom. Actually, the board – still today present in many hotels – suggested to retain the used towels in order to avoid the daily washing and, consequently, the harmful waste of water and detergents. The man noted that it was just a facade environmentalism as there was not any other message in favour of environment protection in the entire hotel.
30 years later, to recognize greenwashing it has become a much more complex affair. An example? A brand can easily declare in its ad campaign that in its new product there is a 50% addition of recycled material: as a matter of fact, it does not mean that the recycled material percentage is half of the utilized material. The percentage could have very well passed from 1% to 2% only. In other words, the statement is formally correct, but it is misleading for the consumer.
The news that have brough the word under the spotlight have something to do with the Italian Constitution and… Sanremo Italian Songs Festival.
On 8th February, 2022 the Italian Parliament by modifying the articles 9 and 41 has approved a Constitutional reform adding the protection of environment, biodiversity and ecosystems to the founding principle of the Italian Constitution..
It is a significant step in the direction of countering the greenwashing.
In Italy, over the last few years, a great deal of attention has been given to the issue by various institutions, up to having in November 2021 a first judgment of the Civil Court of Gorizia condemning a company for greenwashing. However, having a written law it does carry a significantly heavier weight.
Companies are warned: sustainable claims declared in their ads cannot be vague, generic or exaggerated. A recent report of the European Commission analysing messages on sustainability published in web sites clearly states that above 50% of the examined green claims were not fully true. The reasons? Vague and generic statements and information supporting the statement not accessible .
If the Constitution highlights the topic, even more immediate and easy to access to the public at large is the Italian Sanremo Festival . The song “Ciao Ciao” by the duo La Rappresentante di Lista has a very catchy motif and lyrics that are very easy to memorize, but it conceals a much deeper message.
The end of the world, the apocalypse, the climate changes, the social situation (the vertigo): everthing linked to a tiresome and comples ecological transiction.
The objective of the “La Rappresentante di Lista” – whose song, according to recent Spotify data, has been among the 20 songs most listened in the world – it has become even more evident during the night dedicated to the covers when the songwriter Cosmo, performing along with the duo, launched an openly controversial message against one of the Festival sponsors: stop greenwashing. The performance did not pass unnoticed to the media: tv, print press, social media have disseminated the news explaining, more or less in depth, the meaning of the term, previously little known to the common men.
A way to create interest around a term usually relegated to the environment events or “green” specialized media. A way to educate the mass to understand when the companies – more and more engaged in declaring their sustainability – are actually lying.
In other words, the music as a perfect mean to convey an important message without be boring: if “greenwashing” becomes pop, it is better.