With sustainability rising in popularity across the globe, an unfortunate phenomenon known as greenwashing has also taken off. Greenwashing is the practice of making false or misleading sustainability claims. In recent years, a fair number of big-name companies have come under fire for greenwashing.
For example, Nestlé released a statement in 2018 stating that it planned for its packaging to be 100% recyclable or reusable by 2025. However, environmental groups and other critics pointed out that the company hadn’t released clear targets, a timeline, or additional efforts to help facilitate recycling by consumers. In 2019, H&M launched a line of “green” clothing titled “Conscious.” They were then criticized by the Norwegian Customer Authority for “misleading” marketing of the collection because “the information given regarding sustainability was not sufficient, especially given that…Conscious…is advertised as a collection with environmental benefits.” (H&M was also under fire as recently as July 2022 for using a misleading scorecard system to inform customers about the sustainability of each of its products).
A quick Google search reveals countless more cases of corporate greenwashing in the past few years alone. So, how can your company avoid greenwashing? In this article, we give you our top tips to avoid making misleading sustainability claims.
5 Tips to Avoid Greenwashing
- Ensure you have high quality data, then share it. In order to implement effective and genuine sustainability initiatives, it is essential that you have comprehensive utility, energy, and sustainability data. Without such data, you are basically flying blind and will not be able to identify energy efficiency and sustainability projects that will truly make a difference for your organization. In addition, data allows you to determine if your sustainability energy efficiency initiatives are working effectively. One form of greenwashing is to proudly announce sustainability measures without providing data about the impacts they are having, whether good or bad. Make sure to share data from before and after your sustainability initiatives have been put into place.
- Get certifications and seals of approval to prove your sustainability. Many certification bodies such as LEED, Green Business Bureau, B Corp, USDA Organic, WELL, Energy Star, and GRI will allow you to use their name, logo, or seal of approval on your website or product packaging if you meet their required criteria. Rather than telling everyone your company is sustainable, show them you mean business by acquiring certifications. Because the certification processes are often rigorous, they will require your company to really double down on its sustainability efforts, thus preventing greenwashing.
- Make sure you disclose the good and bad. We touched on this in tip number one, but it’s worth driving home. Not all your sustainability initiatives and energy efficiency projects will be as successful as you would like. Some may even be downright duds – and that’s okay! It takes trial and error to ascertain what measures will work best for your company. When something doesn’t go as planned, don’t just sweep it under the rug and focus solely on the good. Transparency fosters trust and sharing your company’s failures will help consumer and investors believe in your successes that much more. That said, let the public know via social media posts, blog articles, or press releases how your initiatives are going. If something didn’t go as planned, explain why, and detail your plans to improve in the future.
- Avoid exaggeration or misleading language in your marketing efforts. Marketing is the time when you highlight your company and/or product, but make sure you only say what is true, and nothing more. While it can be tempting to use vague language or hyperbole to mask flaws or hype up benefits, if you don’t have the facts and data to back up your claims, you could quickly find your company called to the carpet for greenwashing.
- Keep your sustainability facts up to date. If you have solid data and fact points on your company’s sustainability, that’s great – but make sure to keep them up to date. If your data is from several years ago, people will start to wonder why you aren’t sharing current data. Did something change? Is your company/product less sustainable now? If there is some reason why you can’t access recent data, make sure to work on fixing the problem as soon as possible – and in the meantime, let the public know what’s going on.
How WatchWire Can Help Your Company Prevent Greenwashing
WatchWire is a market-leading, energy and sustainability data management platform that uses cloud-based software to collect, automize, analyze, and audit utility, energy, and sustainability data metrics. This allows you to have a consistent stream of high-quality data to use in your sustainability efforts.
WatchWire can also help your company reduce its energy use and greenhouse gas emissions, allowing your company to pass the assessments needed for many sustainability certifications, such as B Corp.
Finally, the WatchWire platform organizes your data into easily digestible charts and graphs that can be shared with shareholders, board members, and the public to ensure accurate and transparent marketing campaigns.
In essence, WatchWire helps your company achieve its sustainability goals, so you no longer feel the pressure to greenwash.
To learn more about WatchWire and its capabilities, you can visit our website, blog, or resource library, request a demo, or follow us on LinkedIn, Instagram, or Twitter to keep up-to-date on the latest energy and sustainability insights, news, and resources.
10 Companies and Corporations Called Out For Greenwashing – EARTH.ORG