It’s a thing. Like greenwashing, whitewashing, or astroturfing. Bee-washing is big business. It’s how companies fool us into consuming more: by appeasing our sense of guilt beforehand. It’s almost like they tried to reverse engineer our resistant points against buying things we don’t need and which hurt the environment, and then systematically distracting and deluding our conscious mind so that we’ll buy their crap anyhow.

Don’t believe me? Listen to Adam Conover explain it:

From Tom’s Shoes to Burt’s Bees, to BodyShop and all the other fake do-gooder companies that attempt to make their billion dollar businesses into “aw shucks” 501(c)3s on the outside while replicating the same corporate structure as ExxonMobil, the myth of doing good through consumption is especially coopted for groups leaning on the environment.

Here are just a few beewashing advertisements I’ve recently come across:

Lush’s Bee-washing campaign, full of hokey dad jokes”
The really inappropriately named “Amazonian Saviour.” Note: It’s not “savor” as in to drink in and appreciate, but someone deserving religious veneration from saving someone else from danger. As in, if you buy this, you’ll be “saving” the Amazon. Ouch.
innocent “pure” fruit smoothie, the innocent brand is owned by — you guessed it! — CocaCola. Trying to expand into health-conscious markets, CocaCola Company owns over 90% of Innocent Drinks. And here they are, outlandishly claiming “buy me, save a bee.” There are simpler ways of saving bees than by destroying the earth through earth-destroying tetrapak and unnecessary display refrigeration.

noun /bēwäSHiNG/
1. a form of greenwashing where a product, service, or organization is advertised as being more “bee-friendly” than it actually is

Here’s an especially vomit-worth example from

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Ooooh! A free t-shirt. That’s gonna help the bees.

These major corporations and their support of unsustainable agriculture practices are here figured both as cause of colony collapse disorder and savior of the bees. They use their bee-washing to smokescreen their complicity in CCD.

Although I thought I was being clever, that I invented the term, apparently the first mention is in 2015 here:

Bees have become little more than a branding tool for most of the corporations that mention them. And some academic might potentially do an overview of all the mentions of bees by food and personal care product companies, and see how much of it would be considered bee-washing (my guess, upwards of 90%).

Here, I can only reiterate what I have stated (and will continue to state) elsewhere:

Companies should be outlawed and fined for using images of nature (whether bees, pandas, beautiful trees, sunsets, etc) until they can prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are actually not destroying the material conditions for these beings and phenomena to flourish.

Short of this, we fall into necrophilic symbols, a cannibalism of the real by memes. This is just the sort of simulacra replacing life and living systems that Baudrillard warned us about.