Marketing Exploitation: Biomimicry-washing? Bio-washing? Nature-washing?

With the rise of environmentally friendly, sustainable, and organic movements, so has risen the marketing exploitation of these ideas. PR tactics such as greenwashing, where a company appears to publically promote environmentally sustainable ideas without making any meaningful internal changes, run rampant. People have a tendency to believe that things labelled “green”, “organic”, and “natural” are better for them and, as a bonus, can feel superior that they are helping save the planet.

According to the Da Vinci index, by the year 2030, bioinspiration could globally create $1.6 trillion in GDP. As appreciation for the economic potential of biomimicry grows, it is inevitable that some will take advantage of this, and will begin to put a biomimicry spin on their products and systems-a pretty facade to capitalize on a popular trend.

Is this a bad thing? On one hand, using biomimicry as a marketing ploy will raise awareness of the process, inspiring others to look to nature for answers. It has the possibility to stir up enthusiasm, possibly leading to more funding for institutions teaching and practicing biomimicry.

On the other hand, using biomimicry as window dressing and a sales tactic without any in-depth research of the model system may discredit the field as a whole, weakening the validity of biomimetic design. Biomimicry is not just taking what we need from nature, there is an emphasis on designing the way nature does-in a sustainable, recyclable, biodegradable way. If only applied as a veneer without the depth of thought that should be present, the actual point of designing from nature is moot.

What makes biomimicry? Must it be a deliberate thought process from the inception of the design? Or can it just be a vague idea, a connection made later on after a concept has been developed? At what point does a design become biomimetic?

Also, if companies start doing this, what is the best term? Because none of the ones I came up with seem to be very catchy, and I want a good way to accuse people of this in a few years.


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