Australia and New Zealand Communication Association
Faculty of Education and Arts
School of Communication and Arts / Centre for Research in Entertainment, Arts,Technology, Education and Communications
As environmentalism becomes increasingly popular, the importance of environmental language, images and ideas becomes more critical. This paper discusses the significance of environmental communication and its potential role as a “green” cloak for environmentally destructive practices and companies. Although there are many examples of the corporate use of “greenwash”, this paper illustrates the concept using one of Shell Oil’s controversial advertisements from 2007. Greenwash is a communications strategy which uses environmental images and language to make corporate activity appear eco-friendly, whether or not it is environmentally destructive. Through content analysis, visual decoding, and with reference to findings by regulators, the argument offered here demonstrates the power, and the complex rationale, behind greenwash activity. Contextualising the critical dissection of the advertisement in question within academic debates over the role and prevalence of greenwash, the paper illustrates how this approach has become an important communication tool, often associated with public relations spin. A multitude of equivalent advertisements, and the growing discussion about environmental responsibility and corporate greenwash, indicate the need for significant research in this field.
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