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Greenwashing, a pejorative term derived from the term whitewashing, was coined by environmental activists to describe efforts by corporations to portray themselves as environmentally responsible in order to mask environmental wrongdoings. While the term has been used within activist circles since the late 1980s, it was not until 1999 that it was added to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary and officially recognized as part of the language. Consequently, some of the literature relating to greenwashing uses more neutral terms to describe this and related activities, including “environmental advertising,” “environmental public relations,” “green marketing,” and “green communications.”

The History of Greenwashing

The first instances of what environmentalists now call greenwashing appeared in the late 1960s as part of a corporate response to the modern environmental movement that was ...

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