“Businesses need to take care not to greenwash when promoting ‘Green’ Credentials…”
If you haven’t read our previous blogs or newsletters, and haven’t yet heard of ‘Greenwashing’ then we’ll start by explaining it in simple terms…
Greenwashing is when companies, groups, or influencers use advertising and public messaging to appear environmentally friendly, sustainable and green, in many cases ‘greener’ than they actually are, to help influence and sway our opinion of them and ultimately our spending decisions as consumers.
Greenwashing can be a technique used by certain companies to distract consumers from the fact that their business model and activities actually do a lot of environmental damage and harm. Think huge fossil fuel companies here as a prime example!
End consumers are often oblivious to the greenwashing they are exposed to, and often think they are choosing the greener and more environmentally friendly option, because the advertising, influencing, branding, and public messaging does such a good job to convince them.
Greenwashing can range from very subtle ‘green branding’, such as a misleading packaging choice, all the way through to outright lies.
Why businesses and business leaders should tread carefully when promoting their ‘Green’ credentials?
As Sophie Marjanac from ClientEarth explains “While greenwashing isn’t new, there’s been a huge uptick in interest among consumers recently around environmentally and socially conscious products, and consumers are much more concerned about making environmentally friendly purchasing decisions. So, companies have a real financial incentive to appear sustainable and socially conscious.
There’s also increasing pressure from governments, financial regulators, investors and the public for companies to make environmental commitments around sustainability, climate change and biodiversity. Greenwashing is a way for a company to convince people that it is part of the solution to climate or biodiversity crises. This, in turn, allows it to gain customers, protect its financial interests and, in some cases, actively distract attention away from the negative environmental impacts that its actions are having.”
When a business starts looking to reduce its environmental impact and carbon footprint, becoming greener and more sustainable overall, it is really easy to start targeting and chasing the ‘Green Pound’ and fall into the ‘greenwash’ marketing trap of pushing and celebrating a few small ‘green wins’ instead of a fully committed green model, strategy, and core value.
If a business doesn’t fully commit to implementing a green strategy, business model and core value, and instead implements a scatter gun green approach with a few ‘greener’ initiatives, it is in real danger of greenwashing.
A business implying it is greener through ‘innocently’ failing to consider the impression given by its imagery and messaging, is greenwashing…
Businesses and business leaders have a huge (often worldwide) platform to be a force for good. They also have a real financial incentive to appear green, sustainable, and socially conscious, so their marketing agenda can rather innocently develop a ‘green angle’ and spin without really considering or questioning the damage being done or the misleading message it might be giving… i.e. Greenwashing…
A business may be careful to not explicitly make untrue ‘green claims’ in its marketing, but imaging and messaging can easily provide the impression of being ‘greener’ and more sustainable. End consumers do not really tend question these impressions, read the small print, or question the motive, meaning an ‘innocent’ green spin can easily become greenwashing.
So how do businesses and business leaders navigate Greenwashing and avoid it?
Climate change is real and we are running out of time to stop it. By celebrating very small green ‘wins’ as a business, or marketing one small green sustainable change without the real work of holding itself to account for the reduction of its environmental impact, it is effectively patting itself on the back for doing next to nothing, but sending the message it has done the work to become the ‘greener’ option.
Navigating and avoiding Greenwashing as a business and business leader is relatively simple.
A business is not ‘Greener’ simply because it has green ‘ambitions’.
A business is not ‘Greener’ simply because it can see the financial benefit of being greener.
A business can only start to be greener, more sustainable, and lower its environmental impact when it fully commits to doing so. A business needs to identify their green ambitions, qualify and quantify them, commit to them, communicate them, roadmap and timeline them, and then achieve and implement them.
It takes thought, change, effort, hard work and integrity as a business, to earn and keep REAL green credentials, which is why many try to create the ‘green illusion’ via Greenwashing instead of putting in the work.
Ultimately we are all accountable for stopping climate change. Businesses and business leaders have the perfect opportunity to make real change so it is very important for them to take care not to greenwash when promoting their green credentials.
For more green tips and inspiration take a look at our other blog posts, or pop over to Instagram and LinkedIn and check out @achievinggreenness where we provide you with the motivation, evidence, and tools you may need to become greener.
If you are a business looking for help to become greener then get in touch, we offer a range of services from Green Effectiveness Reviews, ESG design and implementation, through to obtaining REAL green accreditations and ISO certifications. We provide bespoke Green packages for all your requirements.