As environmentalism becomes a larger movement, it is common for people to feel like they are not doing enough to help the environment. This phenomenon has become known as “eco-guilt.”
Many companies and organizations only further this by telling the general public all of the things they can do to help the environment and encouraging them to be as eco-friendly as possible without acknowledging that individuals are not the root of this issue.
It’s unfair to put this kind of pressure on individuals when large corporations are the ones that cause the majority of the environmental damage.
A 2020 article by One Green Planet describes unethical practices of large corporations like Starbucks, Walmart and McDonald’s, and explains how they greatly contribute to deforestation and climate change. However, they explain that, by going vegan, the general public is able to combat this.
“You can drastically cut your carbon footprint, save precious water supplies, and help ensure that vital crop resources are fed to people, rather than livestock,” One Green Planet stated in the article.
This push for the average person to make a major lifestyle change takes blame away from the companies actively doing the damage and places responsibility on the shoulders of individuals.
The average carbon footprint of an individual in the U.S. was 14.24 tons in 2020, as stated in a report by Our World in Data. While this is higher than average, it is trumped by companies like Chevron, which is responsible for emitting 697 million tons of CO2 and methane in 2019, as reported in Chevron’s 2019 performance statistics.
Some companies have actually started to profit off of eco-guilt by “greenwashing.” This is when a company tries to make themselves or their products appear more sustainable while actually doing little or nothing to change their unsustainable business practices.
One prime example of this is a 2018 Coca-Cola campaign. The company set a goal to recycle one can or bottle for every one that they sell by 2030. They also set a goal to use 100% recycled packaging, which apparently doesn’t include the bottle caps or labels.
While these changes may sound good, they have yet to make much of a difference with Coca-Cola still topping the charts for plastic waste production in 2021, as stated in the Break Free from Plastic Brand Annual Audit Report.
These campaigns go to prove that this company, and many others, are profiting off of eco-guilt by trying to convince consumers that they are an environmentally friendly option while refusing to acknowledge the extent of their environmental impact.
Instead of pushing the general public to make sacrifices to reduce their carbon footprint, companies need to start taking accountability for the damage they do.