How can your business avoid greenwashing?

We were pleased to welcome Professor Frances Bowen as part of our recent event that shared knowledge around the environmental, social and governance (ESG) agenda facing businesses. 

Professor Bowen shared some insight on not just what businesses do around ESG but how they communicate it.  As we shift to a sustainable economy, companies need to talk about ESG issues. But this cannot be ‘greenwash’. Making claims around green credentials is risky in a world where information is scrutinised, and a number of advocacy groups exist who can quickly debunk false claims. There is also greater statutory control over environmental with the Competitions and Markets Authority finding that 40% of firms’ green claims could be misleading following a global sweep in January 2021. This led them to create the Green Claims Code later that year – setting out guidance on environmental claims on goods and services.  

Part of her presentation talked about the seven sins of greenwashing: 

1. Sin of hidden trade-off 

An example of this could be the early claims that diesel cars were greener due to lower CO2 emissions. In fact, particulate emissions are higher and just as harmful. 

2. Sin of no proof 

Making claims with no evidence. 

3. Sin of vagueness 

Using vague terms such as ‘all natural’ which can apply to a wide range of chemicals – not all healthy or safe! 

4. Worshipping false labels 

Be very careful in your packaging and how you describe your product particularly its environmental claims. 

5. Sin of irrelevance 

Making claims that reveal little or that mislead e.g. – our new building emits less CO2 than one we built recently in Dubai. So what? 

6. Lesser of two evils 

Environmental claims around products that can harm health. Organic cigarettes anyone? 

7. Sin of fibbing 

An obvious, but thankfully rare sin. Make sure your claims are true! 

Thanks to Professor Bowen for her insight and thought-provoking presentation. We advise all businesses to apply scientific principles to their ESG work and reporting. It is so important to manage your brand, and the reputational risk of greenwashing. Translate your ESG principles into action, and be clear about where you are on your journey. 

Elephants Child can help you navigate through the ESG space, supporting you to plan and prioritise while remaining authentic and credible with your environmental priorities. 

Please get in touch to find out more.