Greenwashing or Recycling?


To optimize sustainability efforts, the Coca-Cola company has put their effort in different angles for instance, fromthe water usage, women participation, community well-being, sustainable packaging, climate protection, and sustainable agriculture. However, the core issue that constantly been criticized is the challenge of recycling. With the low recycling rate, Coca-Cola has been a top pollution brand over the last years. Nowadays, Coca-Cola suffers the pressure from individuals all over the world rejecting single-use plastic. As a result, Coca-Cola has been busy in recent years creating a circular economy for plastics. However, it cannot be done without the help of society, that’s why Coca-Cola created a campaign called: “Don’t buy us, if you don’t help us recycle”.


To take a closer look at the campaign: “Don’t buy us, if you don’t help recycle us”, is actually just part of a broader campaign “World without waste” which launched in 2018 and recycling plastics and preventing litter is the top priority .In order to optimize the following recycling campaign in the future, a specific discussion is needed and should be a focus on how often the campaign has been mentioned in different media, and what is the potential solutions for Coca-Cola. The ‘media’ is composed off our microterms: paid media, earned media, shared media, and owned media. Firstly, paid media mainly affectst he advertising and market aspects which significantly helped for spreading the campaign. Apart from only using the paid media, earned media also been used by Coca-Cola which has been gained through promotional efforts on advertising. Although the slogan  reached attention from the customers in the owned and earned media, the scant attention received in Shared Media way behind compared with the paid media. A study showed that only 58 times of the campaign had been mentioned on four different platforms (Facebook, et al.). With regard to Coca-Cola’s audiences, the young generation is the target that can not easily be divided with social media from their life. The lack of attention from shared media is actually leaving the message of indifference and cast doubt on greenwashing intention.

Secondly, with regard to being an empirical and regional experiment afterward, a higher sharing rate of advertisement in the Netherlands should be expected when it compares to the regions. Otherwise, the regional factor would be another confusion as there isn’t any draw back of spreading out to the rest of the world. While there are probably obstacles and marketing concerns of shifting the attention from the main campaign, the sharing values of recycling plastic bottles and sustainability make Coca-Cola no excuse on this and again the scant figure also break this concern as well. Lastly, as a leader in the softdrink industry, every movement of Coca-Cola toward sustainability like the environmental campaign will be investigated under the microscope. The unbalanced number of Coca-Cola’s advertisement is another evidence of lacking determination and cast the doubt of greenwashing. To reduce the downside and amplify theo utcome of the campaign, it would be significant to earn the trust by showing faith in recycling at the first sight.


Although the components of forming a campaign are complex and sometimes the value behind is often intertwined or even conflict with certain commercial value, the outstanding ramification of human behavior changing is often underestimated and worth to invest in long-term. As all the commercial movements are consist of humans’ favor, companies like Coca-Cola should consider the value of following an environmental campaign afterward. As a result, the first potential solution would lie in showing their determination to the customers directly by how much effort they put in. Then, a much balance advertising rate on the commercial market would be the robust prove to address the issue of greenwashing and the lack of motivation or respect.

It is obvious that when it comes to holding up a campaign associating with human behavior changing from a commercial company, the frame work is consists of the trust from their customers. Meanwhile, how significant their customers truly perceived is the golden ticket for the campaign. While these movements would lose some part of earnings in the short term, the positive influence on the environment is another advertisement  for the company in the long term. If more brand companies like Coca-Cola in the different industries start to tackle the environmental issues by forming campaigns in similar logic, there would be more win-win situations and virtuous circles in the near future.


Author:  | Yen Wei Tseng | Master student E4S Hanze University Groningen | Communication & Behavior

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