The role that we all play with regards to sustainability has changed since the 1980s when the phrase ‘greenwashing’ was first coined. The term greenwashing is used to define companies that claim to be environmentally conscious for marketing purposes, but who don’t make any notable sustainability efforts.
Many consumers have become change agents for businesses because they are more connected, a lot more informed, more curious and more vocal on topics relating in order to the environment than ever before. This is particularly relevant with ‘Generation Z’ (members of society born between 1997-2012 and aged 10-25), that have been reported to only support brands along with values that reflect their own and will happily change if these brands disappoint. Similarly, Generation Alpha, the youngest members of today’s society, only know of a wireless world and the particular call for a more sustainable future.
As well as our increasing curiosity to be better informed, another critical factor with regards to durability, is that many of the solutions to be more sustainable are now available plus affordable. We see changes in many different sectors with more practical and cost-effective solutions around renewables, plant-based diets, battery storage, electric vehicles displacing internal combustion engines, and so much more. Whereas in the past, consumers wanted to be green, but the particular solution wasn’t available, or it was costly or complicated, leaving no choice with regard to change.
We still have a way to go
At the time when consumers are becoming more aware, some businesses still take advantage associated with the growing demand regarding sustainable products, and some businesses are looking for shortcuts to attract consumers.
Some companies make a conscious effort to greenwash with the intention in order to mislead society, playing very much to consumers wanting to buy goods and services from eco conscious brands. Often, words which are usually vague, such as eco-friendly, green, organic or even natural, are used without being able in order to demonstrate how the product or service avoids a negative impact on the surroundings or even society.
Although the attention of community and the particular need for ultra-transparency continues to grow in both momentum and importance, greenwashing won’t be eliminated by these drivers alone. Consumers will need to see regulations and controls put in place to know if the phrase ‘sustainable’ is being used correctly. Therefore , consumers are usually the leading agent of change to spot the truth about how open and transparent a company is within its business practices.
The future state that society will be looking to achieve will be one where customers trust businesses to do the right thing. Where organisations balance profit along with the needs of modern society and the particular planet, exactly where employees trust their employers to create an environment that is safe plus respectful, open up, and clear. Where governments, regulatory bodies and non-governmental organisations are trusted simply by citizens to protect their interests. Where people rely upon each other and expect the best from each other, every day.
If companies are in order to make a shift in greenwashing, the particular questions which need to be front and centre should be centred around:
- What does sustainability mean intended for my organisation?
- How do I ensure that We meet the requirements and expectations of my customers, shareholders and regulators in implementing sustainability programmes?
- What future regulations, imperatives plus expectations will certainly emerge that will I may need to be thinking about and planning for?
- Exactly where should I actually be investing in, in what order and over what time frame to deliver the most impact and best return from our investments?
As all of us hope to transition to this long term state, here are a few tips to get consumers to become their own ‘agent of change’
1. The role associated with branding
Considering the various roles within an company, the marketing team plays an essential role within the message a company presents to consumers. In this, the words that the company uses are powerful and necessary. But become inquisitive plus ensure that you pay attention to what a company is saying and if these words are backed up with legitimate actions. In this, don’t get a slogan at face value, but do dig into the particular company’s practices and see in case they have an ethical supply chain or when there’s any other controversy surrounding their actions. As a consumer, there is an ever-increasing choice in the marketplace, so ensure the particular brand you buy from aligns to your own values and the modify you want to observe.
2. Look for the best certifications
There are easy cutting corners that can quickly help find false claims. Environmental claims, which are not backed up with independent third-party certification, do require further scrutiny. Here again, words are usually essential and don’t let jargon give you the confidence that a company is usually doing the right thing, along with claims of various percentages of recycled content, without any kind of evidence. A few claims may be truthful but equally worrying, such as CFC free, as it is often claimed, as CFC (chlorofluorocarbons) are banned under the particular Montreal Protocol, so the company must be doing this particular anyway.
3. Hiding the trade-off
As companies develop their strategies, they must start somewhere. In this, be mindful if a company claims to end up being green, but is based on a very narrow set of criteria and does not show its more comprehensive intention. Several brands are now doing the right thing and being open and honest that they haven’t solved all their issues, yet have the plan in place in order to. Whilst others are setting an extremely narrow group of criteria without paying attention to the essential points for their company. Recycled paper is an excellent example to use here, which isn’t sustainable just because it originates through a sustainable forest and is harvested sustainably. But the company doesn’t consider the particular paper-making process, the carbon emission in production plus transportation, or the chemicals used within the bleaching process.
BSI is fuelled by our own mission, neutrality, expertise, and ability to bring the right people together. So that will real plus measurable change is supported by sharing best practise and standards that create believe in between customers, companies, and governments, fostering innovation plus progress, and making the world a better place.
BSI’s vision is the fact that organisations will work with us because they want to thrive in a sustainable globe, delivering against their business goals plus stakeholder obligations. Working in partnership with leading thinkers and practitioners – whether established incumbents or even visionary entrepreneurs – government authorities and government bodies, industry body, and consumers. So , we stand for rely on, integrity, plus confidence and not greenwashing.
Martin Townsend is definitely director for the BSI Centre of Excellence for Sustainability.
This article is sponsored by BSI .