The Rise of Green Advertising and its Impact on Consumers and Companies

Category: Advertising
Last Updated: 31 Mar 2023
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Table of contents


The degradation of the environment is a real fact that nobody can deny and its protection occupies an increasingly significant part of our quotidian. As years pass, each of us is trying to manage his consumption and to make less waste. Thus, we can see the development of safety actions such as the growth of green transports (bus functioning with gas for example), the removal of plastic bags at cashiers’ desks and so on. By conviction or because they are worried about their image, many companies change their modes of production and consumption to show consumers how greener they became. They communicate and make big campaigns about their new policy, their new way of production and so on…Everything seems to be green and made up to resolve problems of pollution and global warming.

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  • But do we have to consider these new green adverts as greenwash or as a real commitment to the sustainable development?
  • This dissertation will be divided into three main parts. The first part will deal with general considerations about green advertising, in order to settle the actual context.
  • The second part is going to be more focused on the notion of “Greenwashing”, its origins, its characteristics and on how and who is using it.
  • For the third and last past of this dissertation I am going to do a critical analysis of MacDonald’s new campaign in France.

The Green advertising

1. What does “Green” mean?

The notion of “Green” is extremely wise and there are several definitions when the word is associated with an other one (a green house, green car etc…) In marketing, consumers, companies, advertising, product, packaging can be described as being “green”. In short terms, something “green” is something or someone that is aware of the environment and its preservation.

Now what is the “Green advertising”?

Again, defining the concept of “green advertising” is far from being straightforward. Many studies have been conducted in this area, the first one with a seminal book “Marketing and the Ecological Crisis”, from Fisk’s (1974) who had made a series of ecological marketing workshops beginning in 1975 and repeated in 1979. For Banerjee et al (1995 p.22) green advertising can be defined by any ad that meets one or more of the following criteria:

  1. Explicitly or implicitly addresses the relationship between a product/service and the biophysical environment.
  2. Promotes a green lifestyle with or without highlighting a product/service.
  3. Presents a corporate image of environmental responsibility.

How do you know if ads can be Green or notThe answer here depends on where you stand?

William E.Kilbourne, professor of Marketing at Sam Houston State University has demonstrated that within the ecology literature, environmentalism and ecologism are not only different, but that they are virtually political antitheses. He claims that advertising cannot be effectively separated from its marketing context because this would be anti-ecological in itself. What is advertised and how it is advertised are driven by and interact with products, prices and distribution practices (marketing mix strategy).

He assume that there are at least five different types of green advertising that can be positioned in a two-dimensional framework with political (reformism to radicalism) and human positional (anthropocentric to ecocentric) dimensions that include environmentalism, conservationism, human welfare ecology, preservationism and ecologism. Here, green advertising is a product or a brand with environmental claims. Kilbourne stressed that these environmental claims are genuine and that advertisers are sincere in their efforts to be ecologically responsible, even if some of them doesn’t appear to be trustworthy.

As Eckersley (1992) states, “…from the point of view of the participants in the Green movement and in Green political parties, the word Green represents a distinctive body of ideas and a new political force”(p8). From the ecologism position, it would be argued that the only truly Green product is the one that is produced from renewable resources at rates low than the resource’s replacement rate for non-frivolous human needs. As suggested twenty years ago by Fisks (1974) and more recently by kangun, Carlson, and Grove (1991) and Iyer and Banerjee (1993), the credibility of Green advertising is relatively low. A significant problem exists for marketers who truly desire to be environmentally proactive. Because there is so much confusion about what that means, both within the marketing world and the consumer world, a clearly indentified concept must be developed and followed. Building consumer confidence once it is lost is a difficult and expensive task at best, but under conditions of confusion and deception it is virtually impossible.

2. Characteristics and techniques

Banerjee et al (1995) found that most ads in their sample addressed the impact of the product or advertisers on the environment in general terms, using visuals depicting the beauty of nature.
Most studies on the subject of the green advertising (Peterson 1991; Kilbourne 1995; Zinkhan & Carlson 1995; Easterling et al 1996) dealt with a descriptive analysis of environmental advertising claims. In the context of these studies, natures imagery had been identified as a salient ingredient of green advertising but was also classified as a vague; unspecific and possibly ineffective green claim as opposed to a substantive informational claim. The association of a brand with nature imagery in the scope of a green advertising campaign may indeed lead to significant advertising effects. The underlying perceptual processes are based on accepted communication theories such as petty and Cacioppo’s (1983) model on central and peripheral routes to persuasion, and the classical conditioning theory.
Following Carlson et al.’s classifications (1993), environmental claims can be considered either substantive or associative. Substantive claims are made to enhance consumers’ perception of an organisation or a product as environmentally responsible. Such claims provide information that help consumers in their decisions to purchase a product or a service. Merten (1993) identify three categories of green claims: ads that pretend to establish a direct relationship of the product with nature, stressing its reduced environmental impact; ads that stress on the origin of the product (what come from natural sources must be of good quality and/or healthy, and finally ads that use visual associations with nature through the use of images of landscapes or the colours green and blue.
In other words, green ads are easily recognizable as it will be often based on nature images, green colour and there will be always written in big capital how the company and the product that they advertise, are green (reduction of gas emission, recyclable packaging, financial participation against deforestation etc…). In that way, consumers will be more likely to purchase a product when the company is explicitly showing its implication for the preservation of the environment.

We are now going to have a closer look to the persuasion process or in other terms, how the design of the green claim affects the processing of the message and its effectiveness?
Most authors had a look at the efficiency of cognitive persuasion strategies in green advertising; indeed, the consequence of a growing environmental consciousness is that consumers are now highly involved in environmental issues (Kinnear et al. 1974; Cope & Winward 1991; Carlson et al. 1996, Shrum et al. 1996; Swenson & Wells 1997). Davis (1993) and Chan (2000) findings show that to associate the brand with information on specific environmental product features leads to a positive effect on brand attitude. As I mentioned earlier, marketers are also using affective persuasion strategies with the use of nature images that leads to favourable emotional responses towards a brand. Nature imagery are the most used on television adverts as it’s easy to draw and invoke the idea of nature’s beauty with the high quality of the images on television. The use of nature imagery in advertising can be explained by the fact that nature has some physical and psychological positive effects on human beings (Frumkin 2003). Being in contact with the nature help us to escape just for a while from the grey and sad urban scenes that we all see everyday when we have to go to work…. Nature scenes are more related to holidays, week ends in countryside, Sunday picnics etc…This finding help us to conclude that being close to the nature and feeling good by the simple view of it makes leads to the desire to protect natural environment; thus, consumers will response to nature imagery by attributing a green image to the company/product and will easily purchase a product that make them live these “virtual nature experiences” (Kaplan 1995)

3. The Green Consumer’s Profile

First of all, I would like to define the notion of “Green Consumer”. What is a green consumerIs recycling enough to be considered as a green consumer?

A Green consumer is a person who is concerned about the environment and its protection. The green consumer will obviously purchase products that are eco-friendly (no packaging, products made from natural ingredients, products that are made without causing pollution etc…). After lots of reading that I have made so far, I came up with the idea that in their choices, green consumers would rather go for a company that is not advertising a lot on their products but that claim to be environmentally friendly and that is an interesting point that I want to talk about in this part.
The characteristics of the green consumer are the following ones: most of them are females, middle age, well educated with a high social profile. Levin (1990) stressed that “persons classified as most green tented to be better educated older females with high incomes and liberal orientation whereas those less green tented to be younger, apolitical, less well-educated males ” and Schwartz and Miller (1991) agreed by saying that green consumers are described to be white collar workers, women with a higher level of education. So we can say that being green is a question of education but also a question of money.

People who buy green products are described as being “white collar workers” which means people who learn quite lots of money. It would be interesting to look at the price of a green product compared to a price of a normal one. According to Levin (1990), 82% of the green consumers said that they are willing to pay at least 5% more for a product that was environmentally friendly.
This statement is raising lots of questions at this stage: Are green products actually more expensive and so less accessible to the middle classMarketers know that green consumers are ready to pay more for eco-friendly products so are they using this information to raise the price of their products and make more profitsOrganizations may become green because they realise that the segment of green consumers is increasing.

Could the concept of the green product have become a marketing strategy?

A product without packaging should normally cost less money than a product that has oneWhere is the truth?
All these questions raised are probably the reason that explains the attitude of a green consumer towards a product or even more towards advertising. Indeed, green consumer is a careful shopper and pay lots of attention to details and particularly to the price. He likes taking his time (no impulsive buying) and is an information seeker. He gets his information from word-of-mouth communication buy talking with other green consumers about products. A green consumer will always look for new and innovated products.

Finally, what makes a green consumer is also the fact that he is sceptical about advertising in general. He would never buy a product whose advertising he disliked. Women and men show both believe that advertising insults their intelligence and they both tend to change television channels during commercials. As Chase and Smith (1992) suggest, “Consumers are not only confused about environmental advertising claims, but also distrustful them”. Even if the emphasis of the ads tented to be on environmentally friendly production (associating the company with positively viewed environmental cause) rather than on process-oriented (focusing on production, technology, disposal…) a big majority of them don’t believe in environmental claims.

That is the main reason why green marketing has made so little progress since the 1970’s because there is a serious dilemma for marketers in here. It is hard to target green consumer has he is reluctant to marketing activities and moreover not brand loyal. Even the notion of “green marketing” could be considered as an oxymoron itself. Big companies such as Toyota, Shell, BP, General Motors and so on, they all advertise on how greener they become by using television as the main medium of their campaign, but they don’t seem to realise that green consumers don’t like being advertising in that way. “Treated fairly, they may be receptive to advert, treated poorly; they may not only switch brands, but also take others with them.” (L.J. Shrum, John A. McCarty and Tina M Lowrey, 1995). Green consumers are more receptive to print rather than television advertising and that is another interested point. How could a company advertise on its implication for the planet if the consumer doesn’t let the company the chance to make its proof?

The Greenwashing

1. What is it?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines Greenwash as “Disinformation disseminated by an organisation (…) so as to present an environmentally responsible public image; a public image of environmental responsibility promulgated by or for an organisation, but perceived as being unfounded or intentionally misleading.” Perhaps more simply put the Greenwash is the act of misleading customers by creation an environmentally friendly perception of a product, a company, a politician or even a non-government organization, in order to restore their image and to create benefits.

The term “Greenwashing” (a portmanteau of “green” and “whitewash”) is a term that has been created by New York environmentalist Jay Westerveld in a 1986 essay about the hotel industry’s practice of placing placards in each of their room asking clients to reuse the towels for “saving the environment”. The hotel was in reality using this “green argument” in order to get out of 50-75% water and detergent used each day which helped them to save hundreds of thousands dollars each year….

Today, the practice of the Greenwashing is not only used by hotel chains to get our green out of the pocket as it used to be; nowadays, from MacDonals, Shell, BP down to the smallest local company, using environmental claims advertising is quite common, especially from the auto-manufacturers such as Toyota or Fiat, that promise to sell cars with “ultra” low emissions of gas.

2. Techniques and Characteristics

There are several techniques used by marketers to promote a product as being “green”.

The first one is the name of the product that has to evoke the nature; the second one is the use of the green colour because this is THE colour related to the nature and this is the one that attracts green consumers They also use terms to make it real such as “all natural”, “earth friendly”, “eco-safe” or even “made with non-toxic ingredients” to grab consumer’s attention.

Finally, to prove the fact that their products are eco-friendly, marketers are using eco labels on their packaging (“Ecologo”, “EPEAT” etc…) to show that yes they have been classified has “green” by this organisation and so yes we can trust them.

Let’s take the example of the famous oil company BP to illustrate all these techniques. BP has redesigned their logo with a green stylized flower suggesting that BP is a company that is both environmentally friendly and responsible. Here again, the use of the green to suggest the idea of being eco-responsible. They used cartoon with babies driving a car and stopping to a BP station for their T.V campaign. The gas station on the advert is brand new, green and white, the oil containers are alive, and they sing and smile to the babies while they putting some oil inside their car. Here the message is about the quality of their gas stations and of their oil which makes your car last longer because it’s a “clean energy”. Their slogan “Make a day a little better” to show their concern about gas emission and their implication in renewable researches. But sadly, the only thing green about BP is their logo…. indeed, BP’s Golf oil spill in 201O was disaster and still cause extensive damage to marine and wildlife habitats as well as Gulf’s fishing and tourism industries. BP is thus the perfect example of what’s the Greenwashing is. BP had claimed to become “green” and responsible for the environment and the future of the planet but the truth is that they have among other things, killed thousands of birds and fish. For an oil company, creating a green image of in customer’s mind is impossible. But BP is not the only one that had been misleading consumers in their advertising; there are so many companies that claim to be green by using natural products or recycling materials and so on; but even if this can be true, a company cannot be completely green and that is what they don’t mention.

Instead of saying that they are green from the beginning of the product’s production until the end of the cycle, they should mention that yes they are doing some efforts for the environment but that they still working on how to improve their packaging or on how to make less waste for example. Asking a company to be totally honest with their customers is a real mission…at this point of the dissertation we can raise this question: how can we trust a company when we know that the greenwashing is common in green marketingHow to recognize a real green advertising?

3. Greenwash: annoying or dangerous

Being caught of Greenwashing can generate bad consequences on the image and the reputation of a company.
First of all, there will be consequences on the product or the service advertised: because it won’t reflect the environmental promise expressed in commercials, consumers well intentioned will be deceived by the product itself but also by the company. Also, the product, which offers better environmental profits, is taken away from the market and the penetration of real innovations is slowed down.

Greenwash may put itself out of business; by causing consumers to mistrust every green claim, no matter how justified. They will adopt attitudes of cynicism and doubt towards the promises environmental and finally all the efforts made by the company to raise awareness to the environment won’t be taken into account. Consumers will never trust the corporate again in any new measures that it would take by the future including environment. They will also tend to not be interesting in their next campaign because they will still have this image of liar. Finally, the biggest risk is to loose their customers.

McDonald’s new green marketing strategy in France

According to the Financial Times, McDonald’s is the most famous worldwide brand right before Coca Cola. The company is and has always been the leader of the fast food market. Every day, 5% of the worldwide population eat the famous hamburgers and salads of McDonald’s; in France, they are more than one million.

The surprising point is that in a country well known for its culture of the gastronomy and its healthy food, France is the second country (after the USA) that makes the most profits for McDonald’s industry. Its annual turnover increases faster than the one from the Americans’ market.

McDonald’s first restaurant in France was built in the early 1970’s but at the first beginning, it was not an easy task to win this population that is so attached to its culture of the gastronomy. But after a while and because of the American dream image related to McDonald’s, French people had learned to appreciate the “fast food” principle. But the image of the “junk food” because of its high calories’ hamburgers will always be bonded to McDonald’s. Indeed, the company had to faced so many crises in France by the past such as the crisis of the “crazy cow”. French people do like eating McDonalds but don’t really like the company in itself: McDonalds is the third brand the most hated in France. There is a real paradox in here and that is probably the reason why they always have to renew their marketing strategies in order to improve their image. They’ve been trying to get closer to people in a friendly way, to become more “French” than “American” in a sense, to improve their employees conditions of work and to improve their image of “junk food”.
The last marketing and advertising strategy that had been launched in France is based on being “green” and aware of the environment issues of the last few years. The redesigned of their logo and the modernisation of their restaurant are some of the changes that constitute their new strategy

1. McDonald’s is becoming “green”

In this part, I will talk about the new marketing and advertising strategies of McDonald’s France in becoming environmentally friendly.

a) The promise:

Since a few years ago now, the environment and its protection had been given many attention by McDonald’s France. The company’s strategy is based on the fight against the global warming. Indeed, in 2010, McDonald’s France had decided to reduce its greenhouse gas emission by 8%, to reduce their waste and to preserve natural resources (water saving, oil recycling etc….). To reach this objective, every restaurant from France has to follow some rules and to apply them. Employees will be prepared and formed to actively participate to this new commitment.

As an example of a new practice, some of the restaurants are now trying to manage their energy consumption by using solar panels and hot air pumps. Some others had rebuilt their restaurant using natural materials such as wood in order to create ecological and sustainable new buildings. Finally, the biggest effort is made on the waste that are generated by the activity of the restaurant (rubbish, packaging, used oil etc…).

There is also a new software called EcoProgress® that has been established inside restaurants and for the teams, that gives practical information about environmental challenges and that gives advices on how to achieve them.

The six main suppliers of McDonald’s France are also committed in this new strategy as they now realise their own carbon assessment to fight against the global warming. This exercise consists in calculating the greenhouse gas emission generated by goods transportation and to reduce them.

b) Campaign and advertising strategy

Since the 80’s, the desire of eating healthy food, staying slim and sporty has become the first preoccupation of the French population. Nowadays, if you go on a French supermarket such as “Carrefour” for example, you will be able to find the “light” option for every kind of product (meat, cheese, yogurts, cereals and so on…). How could a company like McDonald’s satisfy this new trend whereas they are famous for their greasy and juicy foodSince the 90’s, McDonald’s France is trying to become healthier to follow their customer expectations. They first starting by introducing light sauces, fruit salads, water and even salads.

In 2002, some Americans accuse McDonald’s to be the reason why 30% of the population is fat. McDonald’s claims that they don’t force people to eat their sandwiches. The company has been struggling with the image of “junk food” for so many years now and the famous American documentary “Super Size me” directed by Morgan Spurlock showing how bad the consequences of MacDonalds’ food are, didn’t help them to improve their image. As an answer to this documentary, McDonald’s has decided to become totally honest with their customers by printing nutritional information on their packaging, showing how much calories contains a burger. In France, in 2009, McDonald’s launched their first “bio” and healthy sandwich called “so grilled” composed by brown bread instead of white one, and made with organic food only. This burger contains only 370 whereas a Big Mac would be almost 500 calories. Their slogan “Gourmet and healthy” is showing their new desire to become an healthy and green restaurant using organic food, more fruits and vegetables and by becoming aware of their customers health.

Not only McDonald’s France had become healthy but also green. Indeed, as Delphine Smagghe (in charge of the environmental and sustainable development for McDonald’s France) wrote on her blog, it’s been 15 years that McDonald’s France is acting for the environment, but nobody knows about it because they didn’t advertise on it. Now it’s time to show people what McDonald’s has been doing for the last few years.

They first decided to change the colour of their logo: instead of a yellow M with a red background, they changed it in a yellow M with a green background to show their involvement and implication for the environment. They also find that the red was too aggressive by expressing the anger whereas the green is the colour of the hope. Red means stop, green start and that was exactly what McDonald’s France wanted to express: a new start in the environment and health field.

In 2008, McDonald’s France its new campaign “Venez comme vous etes” which literally means “Come as you are” in which we can see their brand new logo.

The camera is fixed in a white room showing people from different genre, culture, age and style smiling at the camera. The way the advert was made could make us think that people were introducing themselves to the camera just like a casting for a movie for example but actually, at the end we could understand that McDonald’s doesn’t care about how people look like, everybody is accepted just the way they are.

This campaign was more about McDonald’s spirit and less about their products: actually, this campaign is stressing on the fact that compared to some other restaurants, McDonald’s is trying to get closer and closer to their customers’ expectations: a healthy food in a healthy place. Everybody can go to McDonald’s because it is accessible and its products are made for everybody: healthy happy meal for children, healthy salads and burgers for women, organic food, and classic meal for those who like the original and famous hamburgers. It is also a place where you can eat well without spending too much money.

Also, we can imagine that the aim of the campaign was to show people that if MacDonald’s doesn’t judge anyone for the way they are, we should do the same with them. We should maybe take into account that even if they have a “junk food” image, McDonald’s is doing their best to offer us what we except. McDonald’s had been criticised in so many ways every time they were trying to improve their services or every time they were launching a new product. This last campaign is maybe a way to tell us that their desire to become green is real and that we should let them make their proof.

c) Analysis of McDonald’s France T.V campaign “Grandes envies de Fromage” (“Craving for cheese”) following the green advertising characteristics:

Following the analysis of green advertising according to Merten (1993) and Banerjee et al (1995), one of the main characteristics is the visual association with nature through the use of images of landscape and the colours green and blue.

In this campaign, McDonald’s is using visuals depicting the beauty of the nature. Indeed, there is a young woman cycling in the middle of the countryside surrounding by mountains and fields. As she is riding along the way, she passes a farmer with a goat; the colour of her dress is natural just as the colour of the skin; she is young, thin with long blond hair and she has no make up on. You finally find out that she is on her way to McDonald’s to order a cheesy sandwich. When she arrives to McDonald’s she stops the bike at the drive through just as everybody do with cars, and she orders. We have noticed that the buildings are made of wood and that the employees wear green shirt and caps.

When she is done, she is meeting two of her friends who look just like her, for having a McDonald’s picnic in the middle of a field. Funnily, this scene can make us think of French paints from the 19th century such as “Le dejeuner sur l’herbe”(“The luncheon on the Grass”) of Edouard Manet or even “Femmes au jardin” (“Women in the Garden”) of Claude Monet as if McDonald’s wanted to show that you can include a burger (which is normally considered as “junk food”) in such an authentic and natural environment.

The second characteristic Merten claimed is that a real green advert must stress on the origin of the product (what come from natural sources and must be of good quality and healthy).

In point of fact, at the real end of the advert there is a visual of the sandwiches and a quick explanation made by the voice over of the new recipes clarifying that the cheese that composed the burger is AOP (“Appelation d’Origine Controlee”). The AOP label created in 1992 in France protects the name of a product which production, transformation and development must be done in a determined geographic area with a savoir-faire, a heritage. In other words, it is a label that certifies the traceability of a product and McDonald’s is using this argument in order to reassure the consumers about what they are eating and to improve their image of “bad food”. Thus, the use of a goat in the advert is basically to show the link with McDonald’s original cheese.

Knowing that, the choice of a thin girl seems to be quite relevant to show the aspect of “healthy” sandwich. Actually, McDonald’s wants to emphasize the fact that these new burgers are not only AOP but also healthy and low calories.

French women are extremely worried about what they are eating and they rarely consume McDonald’s: indeed, only 35% of McDonald’s consumers are women and among them 30% are mothers and so called “mother-sacrifice”. This is not the first time that McDonald’s is trying to convince people that its food is quite healthy: in 2010, they launched a new low calorie burger called the “so grilled” which contained only 360 calories, targeting specially French women. Moreover, in October 2010 a prototype restaurant called “Mc Cafe” selling coffee and salads only had opened in Paris. . This is showing how McDonald’s is making efforts to targeting a new audience (women) and we can finally suppose that this advert is one of the attempt to seduce women.

After that analysis we can easily confirm that McDonald’s is using most of the characteristics that describe green advertising. The fact is, is this green advertising honest and committed or is it just greenwash?

2. Real Commitment or Greenwashing

Since 2006, McDonald’s France is publishing an environmental report called “The Eco Journal” which shows a global vision of each action that has been undertaken to reduce the negative impact generated by their activity. Inside the report, you can read about how McDonald’s has reduced its water and energy consumption, how they managed to reduce their waste and how their suppliers are taking part in the project.

More precisely, I will list the most important environmental measures that McDonald’s France has taken the past few years:

  • 1992: optimization of the packaging (lighter and use of renewable and recyclable materials)
  • 1994: First restaurant made with wood
  • 1995: Environmental trophy received and giving by Corinne Lepage
  • 1999: Launch of packaging in bulk
  • 2000: Collecting and recycling procedure of the deliveries boxes
  • 2001: Creation of a common core knowledge of agricultural quality
  • 2004: New policy of reusing cooking oil in biodiesel
  • 2005: All the new restaurants has been made with wood; first Carbone assessment
  • 2006: Creation of the first “Eco Journal” (based on the results of their environmental measures)
  • 2007: Creation and expansion of the new environmental system of management “EcoProgress”; waste management process; Carbone assessment made by their 7 main suppliers
  • 2008: Second Carbone assessment and interior redecoration based on the environment
  • 2010: modification of their logo: the red background became green

All these environmental measures taken by McDonbald’s can make us think that the giant of the fast food is above reproach in terms of greenness but behind the scene, there are some contradictions and that’s why they have always been criticized by NGO.

Their first argument is to say that they know everything about the traceability of their products and to say that the majority of their products come from local producers.

But, the aim chicken supplier Cargill Foods France is using every years 13 000 tones of chicken meat. 86% of the meat buying by McDonald’s is European: 45% from France, 37% from England, 4% from Deutschland and 14% is being imported from Brazil. And yet, the food giant Cargill (turnover: 70 billion US dollars) has several facilities in Brazil such as 13 giant warehouses for the soya transit that is use to feed the chicken farming. Dispatched in England, this soya end up at a farming chicken company in Sun Valley (subsidiary of Cargill) This one produces one million of chicken each week and supplies 50% of the quantity for McDonald’s Europe and Great-Britain.

This operation contributes at the massive deforestation of Amazonia and discredits the major axe of McDonald’s communication, which maintains their commitment for the local supplying. Also, the use of chicken battery farming refutes the awareness of McDonald’s about the protection and the well being of animals. According to Greenpeace, which has conducted a survey about the subject, more than 25 000 square kilometres of forest has disappeared in 2005. They replaced it by soya intensive production managed by Blairo Maggi, the most important Brazilian soya producer to whom the World Bank loaned 30 million dollars, to help him to develop his plantations over 2 million hectares in the Amazonian forest.

Another point that we can raise is about the packaging recycling. Indeed, McDonald’s claimed that they saved 121 tones of package by reducing the weight of it but at the same time, they produce 34 000 tones of packaging each year.

We can see here that their communication on the traceability of their product, on the well being of animal and on the packaging recycling is not trustworthy. McDonald’s is also stressing on the fact that they are recycling the food oil used for cooking their chips into biodiesel for their deliveries lorries. Indeed, they said that all the McDonald’s lorries that circulate all around the Europe are already using this biodiesel to circulate. How could it be possible whereas this biodiesel is not allowed in France yet The truth behind this is that this biodiesel is used in Germany for lorries that are not necessarily circulating for McDonald’s.

What about now the new logoMcDonald’s France has recently changed the colour of their logo: the yellow M is now surrounded by a green background instead of a red one. French newspapers have all related this change to their new environmental policy: McDonald’s France is becoming green so they change the colour of their logo to fit this idea. In France, we all have noticed the difference and in consumers’ mind, the green of their logo represent the idea of becoming environmentally responsible, there is no doubt. But McDonald’s France has recently claimed that there is no link between their new logo and their new policy; indeed, they just decided to redesign their logo because the red was considered to be too aggressive and because the old colour was not fitting with the new architectural style of their restaurants.

A McDonald’s restaurant today in France is mainly made of wood, rocs and there is even a garden at the entry with flowers and trees. Inside, the walls are green, tables and benches are also made of wood and the list is long…everything is built to show the consumers how McDonald’s care about environment by using simple materials and colours related to the nature. But If McDonald’s didn’t want to link the change of their logo and their design with their environmental policy why would they let us thinks soWhy wouldn’t they explicitly say on their advert that they changed the logo for a question of architecture?

I will now speak in depth about one of the new T.V advertisement of McDonald’s about the Happy Meal. Indeed, again to show their involvement for the environment and organic foods, McDonald’s France has just made a new advert targeting children and their parents for their new Happy Meal, made of organic food only, fruits and vegetables.

In this ad, they enumerate all the changes they have brought to the happy meal to make it environmentally friendly starting by the box, 72% made of recyclable craft. The second big change is about the food, which has mainly become organic with the yogurt fruits and the apple juice; the third change is about giving the children the choice to choose between cherry tomatoes or chips and fruits as a desert instead of an ice cream for example. The final big change is to say that the happy meal games are now more games that work without battery to preserve the environment. The conclusion of the advert is to say everything has changed in the happy meal, everything except the price.

It is now interesting to have a look at this advert in terms of Greenwashing. McDonald’s claims that the aliments are now organic but there is a difference between organic food and healthy food. Indeed, many researches have been done on the composition of hamburgers and they found out that because they are so many chemical products on it, they couldn’t rot. The CNN and the Washington Post have both made articles on the subject, explaining why we should be worried about it.

The story first began in January 1989 when a young man (Morgan Spurlock’s) bought two hamburgers at a McDonald’s restaurant in Vermont USA; he ate the first burger and put the second one in his pocket and forgot about it. The burger stayed in the pocket of his jacket on a wardrobe for an entire year and then one day, while the young man was looking through his closet, he found his old jacket and noticed something in the pocket: a hamburger. Surprisingly, the burger looked and smelled exactly the same than one year ago! The young man shared his discover with his friends but nobody believed him…so the young man started collecting more burgers and saving them in his basement. That was over 18 years ago…Today, the man has one of the most extensive collections of immortal burgers. So now the questions are: Why does McDonald have put so many chemicals in their foodAre they evil companyHow did this happen and how could people from government for example let them doing thisIs it dangerous for health?

Green people will answer by saying that McDonald’s is an evil company that produce dangerous food without caring about people’s health and that only think about making more and more money. The more interesting and logical answer that I found was to say that because McDonald’s has over 33 000 restaurants worldwide, the only way they can make their hamburgers and fries taste exactly the same at every restaurant all around the world is by replacing food (which has a tendency to taste different depending on the season, environmental conditions, and quality) with chemicals, which always look, smell and taste the same.

Why McDonald’s would do that and how did it happenGradually over time, a long time ago when McDonald’s first restaurant came out they were serving real hamburgers made with real bread; their milkshakes were made with real milk and sugar and so on…but as their corporation increased, they started to run more and more restaurants all over the world and it began difficult for them to managed their production. They had to rely on more efficient techniques to make their products stay unique and tasty in each of their restaurants. The list of these chemicals is so difficult to understand that even scientists would have difficulties to understand it! The meat is full of salt and sodium, the bread made with soya oil, fructose and glucose syrup which are well known for being dangerous for health if consumed in big quantity.

Why did the newspapers and medias not say a word about itHave they been paid for silence or have they ever heard about itHow can the government let such things happenWe will probably never be able to answer such big questions but I can suppose that because McDonald’s is and has always been a powerful corporate that generates huge amounts of money, the government had probably shut one’s eyes to the chemicals they are using to keep their hamburgers.

I can thus conclude on that point by saying that McDonald’s is here doing Greenwashing by saying that their meat or their vegetables are 100% organic whereas they are actually putting chemicals on it. McDonald’s is proudly assuring people that its food is organic and so good for health whereas in reality, it’s not.


In a free market economy, consumers demand is actually more influential than government pressure. What the market demands the market often gets. Focus groups and market research had demonstrated the growing market demand for green products and many companies are becoming green to answer consumers’ expectations. You’re asking for and buying green products, so companies are making them. If you stop, so will they.

For the case of McDonald’s, we can so wondering if all their green actions and campaign have to be considered as a real commitment or if it’s just a way to “follow the trend”After having working and doing lots of research about McDonald’s during the last few months, I will try to answer this question by using the conclusion I drawn about the subject. McDonald’s is one of the most powerful companies of this planet and represents the principle of the globalization itself. McDonald’s exists since 1940 and its hamburgers and history are unique and famous all around the world. Even if Mcdonald’s has to face many crises by the past, they have been through, and even if we all know about their food, we all love McDonald’s. In France McDonald’s it’s about 1134 restaurants and more than 1.2 million of customers each days so 450 million of customers per year. The progression of McDonald’s in France has reached 50% during the last 5 years! French are the second biggest consumers of McDonald’s after the American and these numbers are surprising as McDonald’s France has been struggling with its image during the last 10 years. It began in 1990 when Jose Bove (president of the agricultural and rural development commission of the European Parliament) denounced the sanitary security of a restaurant that lead to its closing. In reaction to this crisis, McDonald’s launched a campaign based on the origin of its products. Then, in 2004, the film “Super Size Me” shown a man who has put on weight (11kilos in one month) after having eating McDonald’s every day: again, public opinion point the finger at McDonald’s France.

Straight after that, McDonald’s launched its first healthy salad following by fruits, mineral water and the calories counter on the packaging. Since 2004, McDonald’s France hasn’t face an other crisis and the “big mac” is still at the top of their sale. Even girls can go to McDonald’s because they have introduced new salads and a new burger that contains fewer calories than a normal one. But because people and organisations cannot stop criticizing McDonald’s, the question of Greenwashing is raised. So where is the truthDelphine Smagghe (president of environmental and sustainable development for McDonald’s France) mentioned on her blog, McDonald’s France is acting against the global warming for more than 15 years now but they have never advertised on it. First question is why would have they been waiting 15 years to communicate on itThe answer is simple…15 years ago, people were not so aware of the environment. Being green was not “in”; maybe McDonald’s France is not lying, they really have been working on environmental measures for 15 years but they just couldn’t find enough “green” consumers. McDonald’s such as other big companies is only looking for money : they might be committed to the environment but it’s not about choice, it’s more about making money with the green argument. Because they have been and still are criticised by NGO, and because being green and consuming organic food is the new big trend in France, McDonald’s have finally decided, after 15 years, to speak about their own environmental measures.

To the question: real commitment or greenwashing I can finally answer that McDonald’s is not really committed as it’s not its own choice. McDonald’s has just decided to show up as a green company because French want companies to become greener nowadays. Many companies have been caught of Greenwashing (shells, BP etc…) and so McDonald’s France claims that compared to others, thay have been working on green measures for years now. Why didn’t we hear about it thenAnd as I shown earlier, the argument of the biodiesel and the one about the organic food cannot be taken into consideration…Yes, McDonald’s is doing Greenwashing in a way. By claiming their greenness is probably a way for McDonald’s to prevent a future crisis because as it already happened by the past, the giant of the fast food knows that they probably will have to face another one soon….



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The Rise of Green Advertising and its Impact on Consumers and Companies. (2019, Apr 10). Retrieved from

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