The Misuse and Exploitation of the Word Sustainability


The Misuse and Exploitation of the Word Sustainability

With the rise of sustainability issues, we have seen a number of businesses implement practices that benefit the cause. The sustainable case is made by taking into consideration not only the environmental factors (like it is usually misunderstood) but also the societal and economic ones. Although many businesses claim to have done this, reality shows otherwise. Many times, sustainability has been used as a marketing strategy in an unethical way, this way misleading consumers into buying their products.


These past few years sustainability has become a tremendously popular word which has lead to the misusage of it. Intentionally or unintentionally, businesses have benefited from sustainability sometimes even while being contributors to practices that have nothing to do with sustainable development. This phenomenon is known as greenwashing, which is a compound word, modeled on whitewashing.

We have been seeing the effects of greenwashing for a long time, in many industries, but some of the most interesting ones take place in the food industry. While governments have been supporting and promoting agricultural practices that disguise themselves as sustainable, and people have been supporting and consuming the so-called bio, organic and free-range food without any background checks, these industries have continued to thrive.

Greenwashing in the seafood industry

The seafood industry is a prime example of this phenomenon. By having been sold the idea of sustainable fishing, most people still continue to buy and consume seafood. But according to Ali Tabrizi, climate change activist, currently working with the producers of “Cowspiracy” for a new documentary on the state of our oceans, there is no such thing as sustainable fishing.

His argument is supported on the ocean creature’s food chain and symbiosis. While there are predators that feed on smaller animals, like Whales and Sharks, they still contribute to the ocean life by bringing Iron and Nitrogen back to the depths of the ocean where they go to feed. But humans have been interrupting this circle by catching the fish that bigger sea creatures are supposed to eat, that way, contributing to the extinction of them. And, as we have understood, when there are no whales and sharks, there are no smaller animals like phytoplankton.

A lifestyle change

Food is a big part of our lives. It ties in with many cultures, practices, and religions around the world. Changing food habits means changing the way we live. That is not an easy task for many people as we are still depended on unsustainable processes that are not all in our control.

But the reality is even harsher for populations living in poverty and war. This is why sustainability is a cause that touches not only on environmental issues but economical and social ones as well. A lifestyle change to more sustainable clothing, plant-based diet, and sustainable houses is an unknown and unachievable reality to many people.

Profit over ethics

The entire misuse and exploitation of the word sustainability have to do with the profit agenda. When sustainability plays well as a marketing strategy, businesses will use and abuse it.

We are no strangers to the fact that businesses are after profit but that can be done ethically. Greenwashing one’s activities and tricking people into consuming will maybe lead to short term profits. But smart marketers know that a long term sustainable marketing strategy is what will bring them the real benefits. By implementing sustainable practices we do a favor to our businesses, first in foremost, and the world.


About the Author:

Ujëbardha Bekolli is passionate about writing, research, and sustainability. She has studied abroad herself and now wants to help others in that direction. She aims to make a difference with her writing by intertwining her passions and experience into providing advice and guidance for students in her new blog Studying in Switzerland.


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