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. 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”. Unfortunately, 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 and 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 engaging in greenwash
- 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.
- Create a sustainability report 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.
- 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 and ideally set a Science Based Target (SBT) 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.
- Don’t just offset your carbon emissions
Planting trees is widely recognised as one of the most effective actions we can all take to help tackle climate change. But don’t just think that you can 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, so we also need to reduce the volume of emissions we are creating. You need to 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.
- Switch to reusable packaging options
Reusable packaging is expected to grow in popularity throughout 2021. If you use cardboard packaging in your business, consider switching to once used boxes. Reuseabox provide Environmental Reports to show exactly how much carbon you have saved by choosing to reuse, along with a range of other environmental benefits.