the-merriam-webster-dictionary-welcomes-'greenwash'-|-greenbiz

“Greenwash” is among 370 new words to be added to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, as the influential resource last week confirmed it had received an environment-focused update.

The dictionary confirmed “greenwash” could be used as both a verb, defining it as “to make (something, such as a product, policy, or practice) appear to be more environmentally friendly or less environmentally damaging than it really is” or “to mislead (someone) by means of greenwashing,” and as a noun, meaning “something (such as a claim or action) that is intended to make a product, policy, activity, etc. appear to be more environmentally friendly or less environmentally damaging than it really is.”

The listing confirms that a term first used in the late 1980s has fully entered the mainstream. It comes as regulators on both sides of the Atlantic look to introduce new rules and standards to help crack down on erroneous environmental claims made by corporates.

The latest update to the dictionary also incorporated a number of other words that point to the growing popularity of environmental issues.

For example, “plant-based” has made the cut for the first time, with the term defined as “made or derived from plants” or “consisting primarily or entirely of food (such as vegetables, fruits, nuts, oils, and beans) derived from plants.”

‘Microgrid’ has also been approved by Merriam-Webster for the first time.

Similarly, “oat milk” has made it into the dictionary, with the term defined as “a liquid made from ground oats and water that is usually fortified (as with calcium and vitamins) and used as a milk substitute.” The definition could prove significant, given some dairy industry groups have campaigned for plant-based milks to be blocked from describing themselves as milk, arguing that it could confuse consumers.

“Microgrid” has also been approved by Merriam-Webster for the first time, defining the clean technology as “a small grid; especially: a local electrical grid that can be connected to a larger network but that is also capable of operating independently.”

And in a move that may surprise many business executives, who will have regarded it as being in common usage for years, “supply chain” has been listed in the dictionary for the first time. Merriam-Webster defined it as “the chain of processes, businesses, etc. by which a commodity is produced and distributed: the companies, materials, and systems involved in manufacturing and delivering goods.”

However, the growing understanding and mainstream acceptance of green business terms was also accompanied by the inclusion of a term that points to the gathering backlash in some quarters against environmental concerns.

“Virtue signalling” has also been included in the dictionary, defined as “the act or practice of conspicuously displaying one’s awareness of and attentiveness to political issues, matters of social and racial justice, etc., especially instead of taking effective action.”

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