Conscientious consumers think twice about spending hard-earned money on brands that turn a blind eye to the global climate crisis. A 2019 Accenture survey of 6,000 consumers in 11 countries found 72% said they are buying more environmentally friendly products than five years before, and 81% expect to buy more in the coming years.
ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) reporting, where companies telegraph their ESG success to important stakeholders, is now a necessity, not a nice-to-have, for corporations spanning all industries. Employees, customers and investors want to see high ESG standards that are maintained authentically and with integrity. “Greenwashing,” however inadvertent, will not be tolerated.
What is “greenwashing”?
The term refers to a company using marketing and PR tactics to make its environmental impact seem more benign than it really is, or to cover up actual environmental damage. Although the deception may not be intentional, being labeled as a “greenwasher” can do irreversible damage to a company’s reputation and finances.
Some examples of what can be considered “greenwashing” are:
- Vague claims: Labeling products as “sustainable” or “all-natural” with no details on the meaning behind these buzzwords.
- No Proof: Claiming a product is environmentally friendly without providing facts to prove it.
Although the deception may not be intentional, being labeled as a “greenwasher” can do irreversible damage to a company’s reputation and finances.
How to avoid “greenwashing”
To avoid unintentionally falling into the “greenwashing” trap, it’s essential to implement positive fundamental change beyond mere image enhancement. Once a greenwashing charge is made, it will be a challenge to refute the charge and restore the corporate reputation.
Set realistic, measurable goals.
Assess your company’s current carbon emissions, environmental impact and sustainability status as a baseline. Now do better.
Fancy marketing, green buzzwords and overamplified claims will hurt more than help in the long (and probably short) run.
Check yourself and stay informed.
Rely on facts and data to back your sustainability claims and check regularly to ensure that your statements are still true. New information is constantly emerging and it’s essential to keep updated.
Finally, embrace ESG initiatives authentically and with integrity, and ensure that the communications team has the tools to share ESG news and updates in a meaningful way that will resonate with your various stakeholders.
Looking for more on ESG? Take a look at our recent blog post discussing Mastercard’s strategy for forcing accountability on its ESG goals.