Preserving and protecting our home planet is more important now than it’s ever been. Businesses, charities and individuals alike are taking steps to become more sustainable. People are looking for more ways they can help lower their environmental impact on the planet, and the fact you’re reading this article means you probably are too!
One way consumers can be more environmentally friendly is to look at the companies and brands they support. Unfortunately, many companies have clocked onto this and decided that giving out false information claiming they do their bit to help the planet is a lot easier than actually doing it. In order to keep up public image and continue to boost their sales, these companies take the easy way out… greenwashing.
What Is Greenwash?
Cambridge Dictionary defines the term ‘Greenwash’ as “an attempt to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it really is”.
It usually involves large companies making false claims about how environmentally friendly a product or service is to make it sound more appealing.
This PR tactic keeps these large corporations in the good books of the general public. It can quite often be vague and misleading which distracts you from the bigger picture. Images of nature, trending buzzwords such as “net-zero” and “carbon neutral”, promises to change their operations by 2050, even using the colour green; these are all ways big businesses can trick their customers into thinking they’re doing a lot more for the planet than they really are.
The Danger Of Greenwashing For Businesses
So why is this a problem? Greenwashing leads us to believe we’re taking one step forward, when really, we’re staying in the exact same spot. These big companies continue to fund, contribute and cause environmentally damaging processes all while the consumer thought they were making a positive difference.
This therefore delays real action from being taken. The real action our planet so desperately needs!
Customers want change
There is a growing increase of pressure on businesses to commit to more sustainable business practises. Research by Toluna, a consumer intelligence platform, found that one in five shoppers rate sustainability to define their choice of retailers, brands and products.
Companies are also under pressure to reduce their carbon emissions. Various phrases have been adopted to communicate commitments and goals such as “carbon neutral” or “net zero carbon”.
So how can you shout about your sustainability credentials without unintentionally greenwashing?
How To Avoid Greenwashing?
1. Be clear, open and honest
Avoid making vague statements such as ‘recyclable’ or ‘eco-friendly’. Consumers and companies are getting savvy when it comes to spotting a dodgy sustainability claim. Ensure you can support your statements with facts and figures. Consider creating a Sustainability ‘vision’ or ‘mission statement’ to communicate your commitments to your customers and how you intend to achieve them.
2. Create a sustainability report / strategy and publish it on your website
Many companies are presenting their ESG or sustainability reports publicly. This allows them to summarise their achievements and helps build trust and credibility. Ensure your report links closely to your company’s vision or mission statement.
3. Work towards Net Zero Carbon
Carbon neutral is a more general term used for companies to measure, reduce, and offset their carbon emissions. To achieve Net Zero Carbon, companies must take full responsibility for their carbon emissions. Set a Science Based Target (SBT) to track your progress with the overall aim of limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees centigrade. Working towards Net Zero shows you are serious about your sustainability commitments and reducing your carbon emissions. Find out more about Net Zero Carbon.
4. Don’t just offset your carbon emissions
Planting trees is one of the most effective actions we can take to help tackle climate change. But it’s not enough to plant a forest of trees to offset the carbon emissions you are creating. It takes around 30 years for a tree to grow large enough for it to start absorbing carbon from the air we breathe. In the short term companies must also work to reduce the volume of emissions they are creating. Examine each area of your operations to see how you can reduce your carbon footprint. Reductions can be achieved through investing in renewable energy sources or re-thinking your production line to reduce inefficiencies.
5.Work towards the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were created with businesses in mind to provide a path toward specific global goals that will safeguard our planet and provide a better future.
No matter how big or small your business is, you can make a difference. Choose a sustainable development goal that aligns with your values. Next work out how you can support this goal in your day to day operations.
If you produce food consider supporting SDG2: ‘Zero Hunger’. You could donate surplus food to charities or provide meals to students in need.
For SDG12: Responsible Consumption and Production, encourage ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’ in the workplace. Stop providing single use plastic bags or cutlery and encourage your employees or customers to bring their own. You can track your efforts and create targets for the SDGs in your sustainability report / strategy.
6. Prove your commitment
Another way to show your customers that you are taking action is to look for relevant accreditations. Becoming a B-Corp is the latest movement many businesses are aiming to achieve. This accreditation shows the world your business puts people and planet over profit. It isn’t easy to get so that makes it all the more valuable! Prove your company is transparent and purposeful by becoming a B-Corp!
Alternatively, you could partake in business activism to show your commitment. By joining coalitions and signing petitions you can become a part of a positive change. The Better Business Act is a great example of a coalition your company can join to help ensure all businesses align their interests with the environment and wider society.
6. Switch to reusable packaging options
If you use cardboard packaging in your business, switch to once used cardboard boxes. Used boxes have a much lower environmental footprint compared to brand new boxes. Reuseabox can provide Environmental Reports to show exactly how much carbon, energy, water and the number of trees you have saved by choosing to reuse.
We also plant a tree for every order placed and we plant trees in areas of the world that need them the most. With your help we’re hoping to save and plant a million trees. Find out more about our 2 Million Tree Challenge.
To buy used cardboard boxes for your business, check out our range of reusable cardboard boxes.
To conclude, greenwashing is a PR tactic used by companies to claim they are doing more to help the environment than they really are. This is a big problem because not only does it mean we are getting further away from a climate solution, but it will also mean consumers have less trust in your business.
There are many ways to make sure you do not greenwash in your own business, the main factor of which is to be open, honest and transparent about everything you are doing to help the planet. Other ways to avoid greenwashing include creating a sustainability strategy and working towards these goals, work towards the SDGs and prove your commitment to the cause by taking business activism and gaining accreditations.
By following all the steps in this article you can avoid accidental greenwash!