The Laundry list (of sustainability washing)

As sustainability field is developing as a discipline, more standards come in more clarification and precision become available. At the same time, a lot more ways of misusing the ideas and principles also appear.  We have put together a list of the most commonly seen types of "sustainability washing” -  are we missing any that you have come across?

A-Z Different Types of “Sustainability Washing”


Companies claiming to be supporting bees, while actually being uninformed and causing significant damage to bee populations (Ethical Consumer 2022).


or racebending, is the act of taking an originally white character and making them black, or a person of colour (VoxATL 2021).


deceptive marketing that overstates a company's commitment to responsible social practices. It can be used interchangeably with the term Greenwashing but has a greater focus on economic and community factors.  Alternatively, it could be phrased as a way that companies hide the social damage that their policies have caused (wikipedia 2022).


Companies spreading misleading or unsubstantiated claims about their carbon impacts or initiatives (Ethical Consumer 2022).


see Greenwashing, Socialwashing and Bluewashing.


the act or practice of making a product, policy, activity, etc. appear to be more environmentally friendly or less environmentally damaging than it really is (Merriam - Webster, 2022).


A brand or organisation reaping the benefits of selling diversity without actually doing the legwork to better the lives of the LGBTQIA+ community. Additionally, certain political groups/companies using their “alignment” to LGBTQIA+ community and other campaigns, as a mask to conceal and gloss over controversies within their operations (Bryer 2022).


when a state or organization appeal to women’s rights and feminism in order to deflect attention from its harmful practices (DecolonizePalestine 2022).


Corporations that use the rainbow symbol or colours, despite being involved in activities that are damaging to LGBTQIA+ community (Ethical Consumer 2022).


the practice of a state, organization, political party, or company presenting itself as progressive and concerned about social equality and justice, in order to use this perception for public relations or economic gain (wikipedia 2022).


Appealing to ideas of ‘sharing’ and community in order to sell products or services, in a way that blurs the commercial and for-profit nature of the business (Ethical Consumer 2022).


The act of making a company seem more social conscious than it is. Also known as Greenwashing, ESGwashing or bluewashing, social washing is when companies try to cover up their negative environmental impacts by promoting themselves as eco-friendly with misleading advertising campaigns and branding (ESGthereport 2022).


Sportswashing involves a company using sports to improve its reputation, distracting attention away from other negative activities it’s involved in (Ethical Consumer 2022).


When companies promote their products through appeals to compassion for other animals, when that same company is actually causing animal suffering (Ethical Consumer 2022).

Whitewashing (hiding)

an attempt to stop people finding out the true facts about a situation (Cambridge Dictionary 2022).

Whitewashing (racism)

the practice of using only white actors, models, or performers, especially the practice of using a white actor to play a character who is not white (Cambridge Dictionary 2022).


Wokewashing is a form of performative activism where corporations demonstrate their advocacy for a social cause through their marketing and simultaneously continue to harm the communities they ‘advocate’ for (Ethical Consumer 2022).

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