What Is Greenwash?
According to the Cambridge Dictionary, the term ‘Greenwash’ is defined 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.
The Danger Of Greenwashing For Businesses
Greenwash can range from being purposely non-specific and vague to making environmental claims that are simply false or cannot be proven. For example, aerospace company Boeing recently pledged to use “100% sustainable fuels on all planes by 2030”. Boeing failed to explain exactly how their “sustainable fuels” are better for the environment than standard fuels. Whilst their claims may be true, we cannot make an informed decision without the facts.
In some cases, companies are in danger of greenwashing due to increased pressures 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. Inspeak Consulting talk about the importance of transparency in this video:
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. 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.