Social media the new battle ground for climate disinformation by brands

todaySeptember 21, 2022

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Social media seems to be the brand new frontier of local weather disinformation and deception as two-thirds of oil and gasoline (72%), auto (60%), and airline (60%) firms use social media to color a “inexperienced innovation” narrative on their companies. In accordance with a examine finished by Greenpeace for the European market, this ratio of ‘green-to-dirty’ in every business’s public communications misrepresents firms’ commitments to decarbonisation.

Furthermore, roughly one-in-five oil and gasoline (23%), auto (22%), and airline (15%) firm posts characteristic sports activities, social causes, or vogue. Calling it a “misdirection”, the examine says that is to focus the viewers’s consideration on partaking subjects unrelated to firms’ core enterprise operations. This may variously legitimise fossil gas pursuits’ social license to function, distract consideration away from corporations’ core enterprise tasks and contributions to the local weather disaster; and market manufacturers as unique, fascinating, and related, mentioned the report.

“We interpret greenwashing by the fossil gas business to be most blatant, whereas that by airways is notably delicate,” mentioned the examine. Statistical evaluation additionally discovered that fossil gas pursuits’ systematic use of nature-evoking imagery to boost the ‘greenness’ of their model picture on social media.

Furthermore, firms (notably automotive producers) leverage not simply the imagery of nature, but in addition of female-presenting folks, non-binary-presenting folks, non-caucasian-presenting folks, younger folks, specialists, sportspeople, and celebrities to strengthen their messages of “inexperienced innovation” and/or “misdirection”.

The examine advertisements that whereas prior to now firms “abetted by public relations corporations have collectively waged a multi-decade, multi-billion greenback marketing campaign of lobbying, disinformation, and propaganda” to confuse the general public, and “undermine local weather and clear power”, over time, their techniques and rhetoric have advanced and gone digital. There was a transfer from” outright, blatant local weather denial in newspapers and on tv to “extra delicate speaking factors” on social media and in native promoting on information web sites.

As a part of the examine, between 1 June and 31 July 2022, Greenpeace collected 33,969 natural social media posts from 22 EU-based firms with fossil gas pursuits, by means of 375 social media accounts throughout 5 platforms (Fb, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and YouTube).  

For every social media account a mix of strategies had been used to extract every social media publish, together with textual content, picture and video information, and social media engagement knowledge. Information from Fb and Instagram was collected utilizing Meta’s social listening software CrowdTangle. Information from Twitter was collected utilizing a mix of Twitter’s public API and the PushShift Twitter API. Information from YouTube was collected utilizing the YouTube public API, and knowledge from TikTok was instantly scraped from the platform and leveraged using a third-party knowledge API.

The posts analysed on this report had been natural content material as commercials are thought of paid promotions, whereby an advertiser can goal audiences primarily based on demographics and different standards, and are topic to stricter content material guidelines and disclosure necessities.

“Nevertheless, the excellence between commercials and natural content material will be deceptive,” mentioned the report. “All company communications content material revealed on social media is, by definition, paid for by the corporate in query, no matter whether or not the corporate paid the platform to market it. As well as, a key goal of some social media promoting is to construct a following, in order that future natural posts attain audiences with out extra paid promotion.”

Particular cases of misrepresentation

The report mentioned that automotive firms’ messages of “misdirection” are usually extra squarely centered round sports activities (63%), and motor racing particularly (56%), but 29% of ‘misdirection’ posts additionally concern vogue and design. Airways’ ‘misdirection’ messaging is dominated by discourses of vogue and design (54%), LGBTQIA+ points (22%), and sports activities (14%).

 airline greenpeace

In the meantime there are additionally completely different ranges of range of “inexperienced innovation” messaging between the three industries. Airways “inexperienced” their picture primarily with nature/surroundings visuals. In addition they talk about their plans/initiatives (8%) and low-emission plane (9%). Automotive producers do the identical with 64% of their ‘inexperienced innovation’ posts present nature/surroundings visuals, however in related measure additionally talk about sustainable transport (60%), primarily by highlighting Electrical Car merchandise (36%) and automobile Emissions knowledge (32%) and by making effectivity language claims (7%).

 greeninnovationcar greeninovation

Fossil gas producers have a broader unfold of ‘inexperienced’ discourses than the opposite industries, the commonest textual discourses being plans/initiatives (42% of ‘inexperienced innovation’ posts). The most typical imagery comprises clear power options (42%), nature/surroundings (56%), and innovation/ laboratories/scientific iconography (10%/7%/9%, respectively).


Most lately, sustainability assessment platform Wherefrom referred to as out a slew of advertisements by Mercedes-Benz meant to advertise Mercedes-EQ, its line of electrical automobiles. Wherefrom’s referred to as out the automotive maker for greenwashing after Mercedes-Benz related its model with the fantastic thing about nature in its advertisements. The unique advertisements confirmed photos of nature from a rose to the veins of leaves, a honeycomb, and lightning. A circle is positioned in the course of the advertisements to showcase the Mercedes-Benz image.

Mercedes-Benz later clarified its collection of advertisements that garnered chatter for greenwashing was not a world model marketing campaign. As an alternative, the pictures had been localised social media content material by Mercedes-Benz Mexico for Earth Day in April this 12 months. 

Meet Asia’s prime PR and communication leaders in-person. PR Asia units the stage for the way forward for purpose-driven modern PR. Be a part of us on 9 November as we collect Asia’s prime PR and communication practitioners in-person in Malaysia. Deep dive into the following mandatory steps for PR as we head in direction of 2023. Solely at #PRAsia.

Associated articles:
Mercedes-Benz referred to as out by sustainability assessment platform for greenwashing
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todaySeptember 21, 2022

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