Op-Ed: Why Greenwashing is Harmful to the Environment

Op-Ed: Why Greenwashing is Harmful to the Environment

Excerpt from recent Eight PR blog by Ivan Theodoulou

Why Greenwashing Doesn't Wash
Sustainability is becoming an increasingly important issue for businesses as consumers become more aware of the impacts their choices have on the environment.

Whereas in the past, companies could get away with not caring about sustainability, that's no longer the case. Consumers are driving change by demanding products and services that are environmentally friendly.

However, some companies look to hide behind a greenwashed image, a pervasive and growing problem. Greenwashing is the act of disseminating misinformation to make a company's products seem environmentally friendly. This is used to make people believe that an organisation is doing more to protect the environment than it is.

Taking many forms, greenwashing may include false advertising claims or undertaking green marketing initiatives that don't have a positive environmental impact.

It's a problem because greenwashing deceives consumers and gives companies a green reputation they don't deserve. It also undermines the legitimate efforts of companies that are trying to be environmentally responsible.

The rise of greenwashing can be directly linked to the increase in ESG awareness and the public's growing interest in climate change. As consumers become more interested in sustainability, they're also becoming more discerning about which companies are truly committed to environmental responsibility.

Consumers are also interested in how a product is produced, not just what it is. They're looking for companies that are transparent about their supply chains and can show that they are using environmentally friendly practices as verified by third parties.

5 Ways to Avoid Greenwashing
Tip #1: Make sure all your environmental claims are legitimate
This means using accurate data and following established guidelines for measuring environmental performance. It also means being transparent about how you calculate your emissions reductions and disclosing any certification schemes you've participated in. There's no need to risk a public backlash by making false or misleading statements about your company's sustainability practices.

Tip #2: Don't overstate your environmental credentials
Avoid overstating your environmental credentials through exaggerated or misleading language in your marketing materials. It also means not making unsubstantiated claims about the benefits of your sustainability initiatives.

Tip #3: Be transparent about your environmental policies
A third way to avoid greenwashing is to be transparent about your environmental policies. This is through public reporting of your greenhouse gas emissions, disclosing the ingredients in your products and where these were sourced and revealing how you make your products. People are curious to learn how things are made or the processes used to produce what they buy.

Tip #4: Implement sustainable practices
A fourth way to avoid greenwashing is to implement sustainable practices. This means making sure all of your operations are environmentally responsible, from manufacturing and shipping to product packaging and disposal. It also means using renewable energy sources whenever possible, investing in energy-efficient technologies and getting independent certification.

Tip #5: Foster a corporate culture of transparency
Fostering a corporate culture of transparency means making sure all employees are aware of your environmental policies and encouraging them to report any potential breaches.

Be green to be green
Just as dumping rubbish at the roadside rather than taking it to the dump can result in a fine, so too can environmentally irresponsible behaviour by companies. The public is increasingly aware of the impact their choices have on the environment, and they're not afraid to hold businesses accountable.

Being seen to be green by following a greenwashing strategy for whatever reason can have a serious negative impact on your brand. Whether to save money, avoid public scrutiny or make sales, the risks are too great to ignore.

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