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Articles by Staff Writer Kate Yoder

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You’ve been seeing commercials like this all your life: An SUV steers off-road into a lush forest. An airplane soars over a pristine coastline. In fast-forward, a tiny green plant sprouts from the soil — something that appears to have nothing to do with the oil company behind the advertisement.

There’s a new word for this old marketing practice: “nature-rinsing.” It’s when polluting companies use images of charismatic animals, green plants, and wild landscapes to suggest that they’re more environmentally friendly than they actually are. Geoffrey Supran, a Harvard researcher who studies fossil fuel propaganda, coined the phrase in a recent working study that analyzed nearly 34,000 social media posts from polluting companies in Europe.

Nature-rinsing is nearly as ubiquitous as nature itself: According to the new report, written in collaboration with researchers at the nonprofit Algorithmic Transparency Institute at the National Conference on Citizenship, environment-related visuals made an appearance in 97 percent of posts from airlines this summer, and well over half of posts from automakers (64 percent) and oil companies (56 percent). “I was shocked by the s... Read more

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