What is greenwashing, and how can it be avoided? A Q&A with Grace Boden
With the recent introduction of EU and UK green claims regulations, Greenwashing is a hot topic. In this blog post, Senior Sustainabiltiy Consultant Jonathon Oon interviews Senior Sustainability Data Manage Grace Boden. She reacts to ‘that Apple advert’ and shares her thoughts on how to avoid misleading green claims.
What is greenwashing?
It’s great to have a moment to zoom out a little and think about the bigger picture so today, we’re having a conversation with Grace about something that’s been, and still is, a very hot topic – greenwashing. Could you give us a bit of an introduction to greenwashing and how it might affect their business? – Jonno
Yes! So greenwashing is a term used to describe a situation where a company makes a claim that conveys a false or misleading message on the positive impact their products or policies are having on the environment.
If a company is accused of greenwashing, it is likely to have a negative impact on their business and its reputation. KPMG did a recent survey to around 2,000 UK adults and the results showed 54% said they would stop buying products and services if a company was found to have greenwashed. – Grace
A recent hot topic that’s related to this is Apple’s advertisement “2030 Status – Mother Nature” – which was a video of Apple reporting to their main stakeholder, Mother Nature, on their sustainability progress. It was a great ad and was very interesting, but it also got a lot of interest and generated a lot of buzz – and not all of this was positive! Grace, what are your thoughts on the ad? Is this an example of greenwashing? – Jonno
This video definitely generated a lot of interesting conversations, with opinions quite divided. I think it’s a good video and it is underpinned by a large Environmental Progress Report that goes through the figures relating to each of the claims they are making throughout the video on the ways they are working to reduce their impact on the environment, so they have made the effort to ensure the claims they are making are backed up by numbers. But, I also think Apple’s impact on the environment all across the world is so monumental that even though these particular claims they are making are positive, there will still be a mass of negative impacts the company is still having on the environment that they are almost trying to blind us from by making this video. – Grace
What can companies do to avoid greenwashing?
So, what should companies do about all this? What do they need to ensure they aren’t going to be called out for Greenwashing? – Jonno
I think the most important thing a company can do to ensure it is not accused of greenwashing is to be truthful and transparent about the positive environmental impacts of its products or services. Then following on from making the claim, it is then imperative that the company has the data to back up it up. Even if the company knows what they are saying is true, without the data and figures available it will be difficult for people to believe in them. – Grace
How can the data team help?
How do you and the data team help with this? – Jonno
One of the main issues we come across is companies not having the capacity or the technical knowledge to know how to collect and manage the data they need to back up their claims. We help companies of all sizes figure out what data they need to be collecting, how they can collect the data whether it be from a small company of 10 employees to a company with markets all across the world, and then how they can then use that data to maximise their positive impact on both people and the planet. – Grace