Consumers and employees are increasingly interested in a company’s sustainability efforts, and businesses are eager to respond. However, it’s crucial to be authentic and transparent about where you stand on your sustainability journey, even if you’re still a work in progress. The last thing you want to do is engage in greenwashing, which can damage your reputation and even lead to legal consequences.
This year, there have already been significant developments in the greenwashing space. German authorities took enforcement action against Deutsche Bank’s asset management arm, DWS Group, due to misleading claims about its ESG credentials. In the US, the SEC has proposed stricter guidelines for ESG funds. The list goes on, and Stephen Bartholomeusz’s opinion piece on “Why a ‘greenwashing’ crackdown should have come as no surprise” goes into this in some detail.
So what is Greenwashing?
Simply put, the term refers to the act of concealing a company’s environmental harms or exaggerating its green and sustainable benefits. If you work in marketing, content, or corporate relations, you may feel pressured to overly emphasise your company’s green credentials, even if it paints an unrealistic picture.
To counter this pressure, it’s important to develop an effective plan for promoting your sustainability efforts honestly and openly. Celebrate the positives while acknowledging areas that require further improvement.
By avoiding greenwashing and reporting honestly, you can enhance your company’s reputation and boost employee morale. A significant number of employees under 30 express greater loyalty and motivation towards socially and environmentally responsible employers. Honesty and authenticity play a crucial role in demonstrating corporate responsibility.
So how can you avoid Greenwashing?
Here are five ways to ensure you remain free from greenwashing:
- Identify tangible actions your business has taken and talk about them.
Whether it’s choosing green electricity, improving energy and water usage, transitioning to electric vehicles, or supporting customers’ sustainable initiatives, make sure the world knows about it.
- Give your green or sustainability credentials pride of place.
If your business meets independently certified standards, proudly display them. This instils confidence in your sustainability credentials among customers and employees.
- Don’t make claims that you can’t substantiate.
Research shows that consumers are highly critical of “corporate hypocrisy,” and respected brands can suffer more damage from hiding negative news compared to lesser-known brands. Therefore, don’t exaggerate your achievements and be transparent about any areas of weakness.
- Support your claims with data.
If your business has conducted lifecycle assessments or gathered relevant data, use it to create compelling infographics or demonstrate progress in your sustainability journey.
- Be transparent about areas where more work is needed.
Honesty about your business’s sustainability performance is crucial for building trust and credibility.