Don’t get caught out with greenwashing

Member News

As many brands, companies and countries begin to bring together and formulate their Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Policies and Plans how many are falling foul to ‘Green Washing’?

The Oxford English Dictionary defines greenwashing as:

“Disinformation disseminated by an organization, etc. so as to present an environmentally responsible public image; but perceived as being unfounded or intentionally misleading.”

Greenwashing can take many forms:

  • Environmental Images

Using the colour green and ‘eco’ images to give a false impression for marketing

  • Misleading Labels

Making claims without any supportive information

  • Hidden Trade – Offs

Putting on an act of being environmentally friendly and sustainable but having a non-environmentally friendly trade-off. Such as using the word ‘recycled’ or ‘natural’ when it’s developed through exploitative conditions.

  • Irrelevant Claims

Sometimes, you might come across labels that say they are free of certain chemicals. The substance might actually be banned by the law and is irrelevant to advertise as going green.

In January 2021 the International Consumer Protection Enforcement Network implemented a screening of websites. For the first time the screening focused on ‘greenwashing’. The results showed that in 42% of cases the claims were exaggerated, false or deceptive and could potentially qualify as unfair commercial practices under EU rules. And in 59% of cases the trader had not provided easily accessible evidence to support its claim.

In June 2021 the Government launched a new expert group, the “Green Technical Advisory Group (GTAG)” who will oversee the Government’s delivery of a “Green Taxonomy” – a framework setting standards for business expenditure that can be defined as environmentally sustainable. The Green Taxonomy will help reduce greenwashing and make it easier for businesses and the general public to truly understand an organisations environmental impact.

Organisations should look beyond the obvious environmental claims and through their own due diligence ensure that they can be backed up effectively. And for organisations who are guilty of green washing, they should consider how they can become more ethical in their claims as this will only lead to increased business in the future.

Organisations who are guilty of green washing, it’s not the end of the road for them if corrected now! They should consider how they can become more ethical in their claims as this will only lead to increased business and resilience in the future.

For further support on how to avoid green washing contact:

Indika Edussuriya, Principal Sustainability Consultant

t: +44 (0)1276 697 715