Consumers are quickly realizing that greenwash is more than just making false claims about products. The fact is that greenwash is far more prevalent than one would expect. In a study by Terrachoice Environmental Marketing, Greenwashing Report 2009: The Seven Sins of Greenwashing, over 98% of the 2,219 products surveyed in North America committed at least one of the following actions http://blog.taigacompany.com/blog/taiga-company/0/0/greenwash-beyond-the-fals… />
• False Labels
• Hidden Trade-off
• No Proof
• Irrelevance / Fibbing
Compounding the issue, a recent BSR report, Communicating on Climate Policy Engagement: A Guide to Sustainability Reporting, finds that a more educated public is, for one, aware of inconsistencies between corporate stated climate goals and business action. Companies are either inconsistent in their own reduction programs or are misaligned with supportive policy or legislative efforts.
According to BSR, reviewing and reflecting on business sustainability strategies is especially important for companies with investors who care about why and how they expect to create value with their efforts. Companies, now more than ever, need to be very clear with their communications.
The solution? Align the corporate mission, sustainable business strategies, products, services and messaging – and – be transparent about it. Futerra Sustainability Communications, Understanding and Preventing Greenwash: A Business Guide, provides a framework for companies to better communicate their environmental message, based on their true business sustainability practices and/or products. The report focuses on providing effective and valuable information to consumers. Here are a few tips from the report:
Impact: Make Sure it’s Real
• Is the topic of your message a significant environmental achievement?
• Is the issue you are addressing material to your business?
• Have you invested significant resources (time, funds, and people)?
• Did you spend more money on the activity than on communications?
• Have you already achieved the results in your claim?
Alignment: Build Support Internally and Externally
• Have you worked with multiple functions within your company?
• Are other activities in your company consistent with this message?
• Have you engaged stakeholders and incorporated their feedback?
• Could your claim be supported by a credible third party?
Communication: Communicate it Accurately
• Is it easy for people to understand your claim and its significance?
• Do people consider your company trustworthy?
• Do you have data to back up your claim?
• Are you conveying your understanding of the big picture?
• Is the message honest and not self-glorifying?
While the ever evolving world of business sustainability messaging unfolds, businesses taking deliberate and conscious steps to incorporate sustainability concepts into the core business processes will not only promote business sustainability but may enhance company and product reputation. The growing eco awareness of consumers will eventually differentiate true products from those simply making marketing claims.
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