How not to Greenwash in Business

by | 8 Dec 2022

A simple 5 point checklist to help communicate your business’s ESG and Sustainability without Greenwashing

When you are in business and tasked with ‘improving the greenness of your brand’ or you are trying to communicate your ESG initiatives, sustainability credentials or general ‘environmental wins’, you will soon find yourself standing in a greenwashing minefield…!

Our first bit of advice if you find yourself in this position, is to avoid focusing solely on trying to find a ‘green angle’ for anything and everything. You need to have more than a ‘hope for the best’ scatter gun approach to ‘looking greener as a brand’. A scatter gun and green angle approach will only result in greenwashing, be it intentional or unintentional. Your business requires a Green Strategy and Framework.

If you’ve made promises in your business to improve or implement sustainability and ESG initiatives, but you haven’t really delivered on them or achieved much yet, and you find yourself trying to communicate your ‘greenness’, then our second bit of advice is DO NOT ignore the promises you made!

Ignored promises or claims will result your business integrity being questioned and point at greenwashing.

As a rule, a fluffy, non committal, scatter gun Green communication approach will appear misleading to your clients and consumers, and may lead to you being called out for Greenwashing.

So to try to prevent Greenwashing at source (you), help you navigate this minefield and avoid making misleading claims, we’ve put together a simple 5 point checklist to help you communicate your ESG and Sustainability without Greenwashing

1 – Have clear, achievable, authentic Sustainability or ESG Policies and Frameworks  any ‘Green’ communication from the business always needs to link back into your actual policy, strategy and framework. Picking random ‘newsworthy items’ because they are ‘green’ and ‘on trend’ without any underlying policy, strategy or framework to link back into is not enough.

If you haven’t implemented these policies, strategies, or frameworks, this is first on your to do list ahead of any green communication or marketing.

2 – Define your achievable yet ambitious Roadmap and Milestones – becoming a greener and more sustainable business doesn’t happen overnight. You’ll need to define your quick wins as well as your medium and long term goals and milestones in your overall Green Roadmap, then communicate these.

Green Roadmaps and Milestones should form part of your overall Green Strategy, Policy and Framework, if these aren’t yet in place, implement them ahead of any green communication or marketing.

3 – Remember Your Green Journey really is a Journey – no one business is expected to have all the answers around sustainability and ESG, and as each business and industry is different, so are the green expectations and requirements. BUT the journey of continuous improvement towards becoming a greener and more sustainable business is the one thing each business and industry does have in common.

It is a journey. As a business you need to start somewhere, clearly communicating this journey you are on as a business helps to prevent greenwashing.

4 – Honesty is always the best policy – honesty ties in nicely with the Green Journey above. By being honest about your REAL journey, where you are now, how far you have (or haven’t) come, how much you have (or haven’t) achieved, and how as a business you really intend to achieve ESG and sustainability, means you are less likely to cherry pick the facts, figures, or stories to suit your own narrative and marketing slant. The green ‘narrative’ should be commitment, accountability, and continuous improvement.

5 – Sustainability and ESG is not just a tick box exercise – trying to crowbar your content or communication into generic ESG or sustainability ‘boxes’ or ‘wrappers’ will appear to be ‘box ticking’ and misleading.

Becoming greener and more sustainable is an ever evolving and continuous improvement process, not a tick box exercise. As a business you should have already committed to, and started implementing strategy, policy and framework – your content should lead effortlessly from this and allow you to celebrate it!

So there you have it, a simple 5 point checklist to help communicate your business ESG and Sustainability without Greenwashing.

As businesses we are in a perfect position to initiate real environmental change. Let’s avoid the common greenwashing mistakes and pitfalls, and instead be seen and heard for the real impact makers, change makers, and market leaders we need to be.

Before you communicate your ‘greenness’ and sustainability to customers and clients, get ahead of your competitors and make sure you follow this checklist. Starting your REAL Green Journey properly, with planning and accountability, in itself will help you prevent greenwashing in your business.

For more green tips and inspiration pop over to Instagram, LinkedIn or Facebook and check out our @achievinggreenness accounts where we provide you with the motivation, evidence, and tools you need to become greener.

If you are a business and want help to become greener and have been looking for someone to help you start then get in touch, we offer Mini Green Audits all the way up to helping you obtain REAL green accreditations and ISO certifications, and we provide bespoke Green packages for all your requirements.

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