Greenwashing – When Sustainability is on Trend

Green is the new black when it comes to business. From planting trees to recycling bottles, sustainability is the newest trend for organizations. So what is it, and how can companies make good on going green?

  • What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is when an organization claims to be sustainable or claims to hold eco-friendly practices but in reality, does not follow through with these claims. Many companies from Coach to ExxonMobil have been recently called out for advertising green company-wide practices but failing to actually commit to these ideas. Because sustainable products and sales of “environmentally friendly” products have increased, every organization is trying to appeal to the younger generation’s pleas for more sustainable business practices, thus companies have started using green jargon and green images to sell products and services.

  • Why Is Recycling Not Enough?

The term “Greenwashing” has been around since the 1980s, first coined by Jay Westerveld, and was only really used for the hotel waste movement back then. Since, it has topped headlines to call companies out for bad business practices.  For example, PB’s annual spend on oil and gas is approximately 96%, while they claim to be investing more in low-carbon energy products such as solar panels.

Be wary of companies that use buzz words like “eco-friendly”, “sustainable”, and “conscious,” without backup information, and organizations that try to re-brand as a green business without explaining how. Just labeling something as “environmentally friendly,” or stating that your organization has “sustainable business practices,” is not enough because there is no action behind the words.

  • How to Make Good on Going Green

Greenwashing is ultimately bad for business, and bad for the environment, so how do organizations put their money where their mouth is and commit to actually being sustainable or going green? For starters, developing and implementing an environmental strategy is the first step in taking action on going green. In addition, being transparent about your efforts and discussing that you may still have a ways to go in becoming a sustainable business or adapting green business practices is a step in the right direction. In order for clients, consumers, and potential employees to trust your organization, you must qualify your claims of sustainability with substantial evidence and keep them up.

  • Final Thoughts

Understanding that going green isn’t just a trend you can exploit to gain more media attention, and if you’re going to call your business practices sustainable their needs to be some backing behind it is important as the world continues to promote sustainability. Creating a checklist to make sure you’re following through with your messaging, and publicly addressing concerns will go a long way to reducing the risk of greenwashing. Check out our other blogs on DE&Is and the “Wokewashing” problem to keep up to date on all the latest.