In the corporate world, you’ve probably heard of whitewashing at least once. When an institution covers up or glosses over controversial material by presenting a skewed version of the truth, it is known as whitewashing. Greenwashing, on the other hand, isn’t as well-known. When an organisation spends more effort and money on promoting itself as environmentally friendly as on actually reducing its environmental impact, this is known as greenwashing. It is a widespread marketing strategy that is intended to mislead consumers that prefer a more environmentally conscious brand. The following article will provide an in-depth explanation of the topic and help you identify any greenwashing tactics used in your organisation.
How Greenwashing Affects the Organisation’s Reputation?
Greenwashing has evolved over the previous two decades, yet it is still prevalent. Corporations are facing an avalanche of litigation for making false environmental claims as the world embraces the quest for greener practices.
For example, the Alliance to End Plastic Garbage (AEPW), a Singapore-based NGO sponsored by major oil and chemical industries like Shell, ExxonMobil, and Dow, claims to be investing $1.5 billion in developing nations to clean up plastic waste. Yet, despite this ostensible purpose, the AEPW not only failed to keep its commitment to clean up the Ganges River in India but also pushed through with plans to make even more plastic.
Even the bottled water industry strives to exaggerate its environmental credentials. How many beautiful images of the Rocky Mountains, gorgeous lakes, and rich wildlife have you seen on the labels of plastic bottles? The underlying premise hasn’t changed. The most common infringement is exaggerating the product or service’s advantage. Greenwashing, according to Beere, is frequently the product of overenthusiasm rather than deliberate attempts to deceive. So it’s understandable why marketers are ecstatic: According to GreenPrint’s 2021 Business of Sustainability Index, 64% of Gen X customers would pay more for a product if it came from a sustainable company, and 75% of millennials would do the same.
Steps to Avoid Greenwashing
If consumer demand for sustainability is the tipping point in our transition to a greener, fairer, and smarter global economy, here are ten common greenwashing strategies to avoid.
- Don’t use ambiguous language: Don’t use words or terms that don’t have a clear meaning (e.g., “eco-friendly” or “natural”).
- Green products vs a shady corporation: Keep an eye out for hypocrisy, such as energy-efficient light bulbs manufactured in a plant that pollutes rivers.
- Don’t utilise evocative graphics that offer an unjustified green impression in your branding (e.g., flowers blooming from exhaust pipes).
- There are several labels that are simply untrustworthy: Keep an eye out for evident attempts to make a risky product appear safe by “greening” it. (Anyone for eco-friendly cigarettes?)
- Imaginary companions: Don’t use a label that appears to be a third-party endorsement but isn’t.
There are plenty of organisations that provide their unfiltered environmental stories to the world. Though the incidences of greenwashing are not widespread, there are several examples that come very close. The issue is that the buzzwords used by greenwashing companies are a slippery slope for anyone trying to find the reality in public business statements.
Tips to Avoid Inadvertent Greenwashing
Use the tactics below to make sure your organisation isn’t greenwashing.
- Make your statements as straightforward as possible. Include particular measurements (for example, “70 per cent organic cotton” rather than “manufactured with organic cotton”), as well as specific certifications and verifiable endorsements from trustworthy third-party eco-organisations like the Sierra Club or Greenpeace.
- Data should be used to back up your statements about sustainability. Maintain up-to-date information on your website, and anywhere else you make sustainability claims. Use only data that can be independently verified. Include credible third-party certification from organisations like the Carbon Trust Standard, Forest Stewardship Council, Rainforest Alliance, or Energy Star, if possible.
- Comparisons are one the most notorious methods for greenwashing to creep into your business. Make sure that when you make a comparison between your product’s sustainability and environmental friendliness and that of a competitor’s, you compare a similar company and product type. Do not mislead the consumers.
- Clean up your business. If you want to sell your products as environmentally friendly, you must walk the walk by incorporating sustainability into your company plan. For example, incorporate environmentally friendly techniques into your manufacturing, waste disposal, and distribution processes.
- Be open and honest about your company’s sustainability efforts and ambitions. Inform customers on the environmental impact of your individual items as well as your company’s broader sustainability efforts. Be explicit about your targets and timetables when sharing plans or goals so that customers can hold you accountable.
- Make sure that the images on marketing and packaging aren’t deceiving. For example, if your items or brand aren’t eco-friendly, don’t use the colour green or imagery of trees and flowers to suggest that they are.