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Anak Agung Gede Brahmantya Murti, SIP, MPA.
Lecturer in Faculty of Social and Political Sciences (FISIP) of Warmadewa University
"Have environmental issues ever been used as a diversion for political activities, or to cover political agendas?"
The above inquiry was posed by a participant in a seminar named "New era Bali: Familiarizing oneself with the green policy in Bali." The event was hosted by the Public Policy Laboratory at the Faculty of Social and Political Sciences (FISIP) of Warmadewa University. It featured three speakers from diverse backgrounds, including researchers from the Public Policy Laboratory at the FISIP of Unwar. Additionally, representatives from the Bali Regional Development Planning Agency and the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) specializing in coastal and marine community empowerment were also present.
The responses provided by the speakers in relation to this question exhibited a consistent sentiment, specifically that environmental concerns lack the appeal necessary to be valued and utilized as strategic devices for diverting attention from political matters. Contrarily, there were optimistic expectations on the potential for environmental concerns to attain political significance in the future.
Due to the increasing number of environmental problems, and consequently in public awareness, many stakeholders are more aware of environmental considerations (Chan & Chang, 2012). The term greenwashing was coined first in 1986, by an environmentalist Jay Westervelt. He published an essay on the hospitality industry about its practice of promoting towel reuse (Guo et al, 2018; Wolniak, 2015). Multiple definitions of greenwashing have arisen due to its multi-interpretive character, as evidenced by numerous studies conducted in this field. The definition of greenwashing can be categorized into several groups, namely, greenwashing as selective disclosure: retain the disclosure of negative information related to the company’s environmental performance and expose positive information regarding its environmental performance (de Freitas Netto et al, 2020); greenwashing as decoupling: symbolic environmental protection behaviors with no environmental protection behavior or failure to fulfill environmental protection commitments, to alleviate the external public pressures and uncertainties and to avoid the conflict with external constituents (Guo et al, 2014); greenwashing as pragmatic legitimacy: the result of self-interested calculations of an organization’s key stakeholders and based on stakeholder’s perceptions of their personal benefit deriving from corporate activities and communication (Seele & Gatti, 2015).
Meanwhile, the characteristics of greenwashing can be seen in two ways: claim greenwashing and executional greenwashing. Claim greenwashing uses textual arguments that explicitly or implicitly refer to the ecological benefits of a product or service to create a misleading environmental claim (de Freitas Netto et al, 2020). Executional greenwashing suggests nature-evoking elements such as images using colors (e.g., green, blue) or sounds (e.g., sea, birds). Backgrounds representing natural landscapes (e.g., mountains, forests, oceans) or pictures of endangered animal species (e.g., pandas, dolphins) or renewable sources of energy (e.g., wind, waterfalls) are examples of executional nature-evoking elements.
Understanding the concept of greenwashing holds significant importance for several reasons. This pertains to the inclusion of environmental concerns within the vision and purpose statements of the three pairs of presidential and vice presidential candidates that have officially registered with the General Election Commission (KPU), namely Anies-Muhaimin, Prabowo-Gibran, and Ganjar-Mahfud. Among the three pairs of candidates, nearly all of them raise the topic of the green economy as a developmental framework for the subsequent five-year period following the election.
Despite the presence of environmental concerns as a component of their vision for Indonesia's future, it is imperative for the public to refrain from adopting a passive stance and merely observing whether this commitment will come to fruition. In the context of greenwashing, it is frequently seen that environmental conservation symbols are employed to conceal activities that undermine environmental sustainability.
In a political ecology approach that looks at the political dimensions of environmental narratives, they see unequal power relations, and as a result, they are skeptical of development interventions that aim to be environmentally friendly and mutually beneficial. That discursive claims regarding degradation, carbon emissions and green development are often used by powerful actors to maintain and expand control of resources (Harlan, 2020). There exists a necessity for a system of checks and balances implemented by the general public on the presidential candidates. This can be achieved during the campaign period through public discourse facilitated by endorsing political parties, educational establishments, think tanks or other social platforms for disseminating information. The implementation of this proposal necessitates the provision of political-environmental education to the broader populace, a task that can be undertaken by esteemed research institutions or higher education establishments.
Chen Y, Chang C (2012) Enhance green purchase intentions. Manag Decis 50(3):502–520. https://doi.org/10.1108/00251741211216250
de Freitas Netto et al. (2020). Concepts and forms of greenwashing: a systematic review. Environ Sci Eur 32:19 https://doi.org/10.1186/s12302-020-0300-3
Guo R, Tao L, Yan L, Gao P (2014) The effect path of greenwashing brand trust in Chinese microbiological industry from decoupling view. Indian J10(7):1827–1831
Guo R, Zhang W, Wang T, Li C, Tao L (2018) Timely or considered? Brand trust repair strategies and mechanism after greenwashing in China— from a legitimacy perspective. Ind Mark Manag 72:127–137. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.indmarman.2018.04.001
Harlan,T. (2020): Green development or greenwashing? A political ecology perspective on China’s green beltand road, Eurasian Geography and Economics, DOI: 10.1080/15387216.2020.1795700
Parguel B, Benoit-Moreau F, Russell C (2015) Can evoking nature in advertising mislead consumers? The power of ‘executional greenwashing’. Int JAdvert 34(1):107–134. https://doi.org/10.1080/02650487.2014.996116
Seele P, Gatti L (2015) Greenwashing revisited: in search of a typology and accusation-based definition incorporating legitimacy strategies. Bus Strategy Environ 26(2):239–252. https://doi.org/10.1002/bse.1912
Wolniak R (2015) Reporting process of corporate social responsibility and greenwashing. In: 15th international multidisciplinary scientific geoconference SGEM2015, ecology, economics, education and legislation. https://doi.org/10.5593/sgem2015/b53/s21.063
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