50% of American companies exaggerate sustainability efforts

29 05 2023

Photo: CNBC/Getty Images

Google Cloud & Harris Poll shared that 59% of executives overstate how they approach sustainable messaging. Here’s how companies can improve their efforts. By Lucy Buchholz from Sustainability Magazine • Reposted: May 29, 2023

Sustainability has become a popular topic as you hear climate change news daily. Ocean temperatures are rising, leading to melting glaciers and migrating ocean species. Storms have become more volatile, increasing the number of floods and torrential storms worldwide. 

Research shows climate change has strengthened hurricanes and raised storm surges due to rising sea levels. In late 2022, you could see the planet’s wrath through Hurricane Ian. The Category 5 storm devastated the Southeast, especially Florida.

Tom Knutson, a senior scientist at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), says rising sea levels exacerbate flooding from hurricanes. The problem will only worsen as rainfall rates rise this century. 

Many have experienced the devastating effects, leading to a push for more sustainability efforts. You may have found ways to lower your carbon footprint by reducing your carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. What about the rest of the country?

Talking about sustainability efforts is easy — following through with actions is a different story. Many Americans say they incorporate sustainable practices only to impress their friends. Reality shows another picture.

A March 2023 survey finds 53% of Americans exaggerate their sustainable practices. The same poll reveals 54% will revert to unsustainable actions if they’re alone. 

Jessica Hann, senior vice president of Avocado Green’s brand marketing and sustainability, says: “When it comes to sustainability, it matters less what people think and more that we all just do the best we can.”

The detrimental impact of greenwashing

Organisations that greenwash mislead customers about the environmental impact of their products and services. They may also use climate-friendly initiatives for PR to cover their environmental malpractice.  

A 2023 survey finds more than half of companies admit to greenwashing. Google Cloud and Harris Poll asked executives how they approach sustainability messaging – 59% said they overstate or inaccurately represent sustainable practices. 

For the planet’s sake, greenwashing needs to come to an end. Better knowledge and improved technology allow you to be friends with the environment instead of an enemy. These four strategies demonstrate how employers can help themselves and their employees improve their sustainability efforts:

1. Apply for sustainability certifications

A terrific way to prove your sustainability initiatives is to achieve certification. For example, you can receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accreditation if your building complies with the requirements. Getting LEED requires passing an examination with the United States Green Building Council.  

LEED is one of the most popular accreditation programs, but many others exist. For example, there’s the Sustainable Agriculture Initiative (SAI). This program tracks organisations in the agricultural industry and scores sustainability efforts by awarding bronze, silver or gold status. Achieving SAI’s gold equivalence means your organization has high marks in biodiversity, soil management and greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. 

2. Introduce renewable energy

Buildings have significantly contributed to current climate issues. Data from the International Energy Agency reveals they are responsible for approximately 35% of global energy use. These structures require burning fossil fuels, using steel and cement in construction, and generating electricity and heat. The current blueprint for energy use is less sustainable as demand grows with the world’s population. 

One way to reduce your employees’ carbon footprint in the office is to introduce renewable energy. The easiest way to do that is with solar panels. These systems harness the sun’s power and convert it into electricity for your building. You’ll create energy instead of relying on the electrical grid. 

Now is an excellent time to buy a solar panel for residential and commercial purposes. The federal government extended the solar tax credit through 2033. Purchasing solar panels allows you to get a 30% rebate on the panels, labour costs and various equipment required for installation.  

3. Rethink the supply chain

Today’s businesses must be conscious of their environmental impact. It matters for their carbon footprint and environmental, social and governance (ESG) scores. Your ESG rating is vital because it demonstrates your social responsibility to investors and consumers. 

One way to improve your ESG scores is to rethink your supply chain and make it more efficient. 

For example, consider your suppliers. Are they domestic or international? International partners may have low costs, but the environmental impact is more significant due to the higher demand for fossil fuels. 

You can shorten the supply chain by partnering with domestic companies – preferably in your state. These businesses shorten your lead times and reduce your business’s environmental impact. 

4. Conserve water

Water is critical in industries like agriculture, construction, fashion and more. Even if you don’t work directly with it, you still need it for bathrooms and water fountains inside the office. The world’s freshwater supply has increasingly become concerning. Cities and states in the Southwest often implement water limits to conserve the resource in the summer. 

Your office can become more sustainable by increasing water efficiency. Use low-flow faucets and toilets to minimize use and only consume what’s needed. These systems reduce water usage and lower the money spent on this utility. Nowadays, you can utilize smart technology to monitor use and see where to improve. 

Help employees help the planet

Sustainability has become a vital topic of discussion lately. The conversation is necessary as the world faces the wrath of climate change. Most people agree it’s a problem but don’t always take the required actions. 

Employees spend a large part of their day in the office, so you should help your colleagues reduce their carbon footprint at work. Incorporate renewable energy and obtain sustainability certifications. These actions demonstrate care for the environment and inspire employees to do more at home. 

To see the original post, follow this link: https://sustainabilitymag.com/articles/50-of-american-companies-exaggerate-sustainability-efforts


Top three tips to avoid greenwashing

16 05 2023

Both greenwashing and greenhushing are problematic because they make it more difficult for consumers to find the kinds of products they are seeking. Credit: NRF

Retailers are responding to the growing demand for sustainable products, but the lack of a standard definition of sustainability is proving challenging. By Isatou Ndure via just-style.com • Reposted: May 16, 2023

According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), consumers are increasingly interested in purchasing sustainable products and retailers are making efforts to meet this demand but the biggest challenge faced by both is the lack of a standard definition of what makes a product sustainable.

Consumers may have different criteria for determining sustainability, such as comparing products to traditional alternatives, evaluating full life-cycle assessments, or expecting perfection in sustainability profiles. Furthermore, different companies use various messaging to communicate their sustainability efforts, leading to confusion.

The greenwashing problem

And retailers are keen to clamp down on precisely what sustainability entails particularly as globally, legislation tightens up to prevent the misleading of consumers via green marketing. However, some companies choose to remain silent on sustainable progress known as “green muting” or “greenhushing.” This practice can also make it challenging for consumers to find sustainable products.

Best practices for sustainability messaging

The NRF has shared some tips based on US Trade Commission guidance, aimed at marketing more sustainable products:

Avoid making vague statements about a product’s sustainability 

It is recommended to make specific and accurate claims that provide clear explanations of the factors that make the product sustainable. An accurate claim that a product contains 10% recycled content, for example, is useful information for consumers seeking to buy more sustainable products. Consumers can determine whether the claim meets their own personal sustainability criteria.

Provide proof

When making environmental claims, make proof available to consumers. Such proof can include independent, third-party certifications, descriptions of audit protocols, copies of audit reports or other information available online or through a QR code. Some companies choose to share additional context to help consumers make even more informed choices:

  • Clothing company, Patagonia acknowledges that sustainability is a journey and that no product is perfectly sustainable — Patagonia explains how it is seeking to improve the environmental and social performance of its operations.
  • Other retailers include efforts to reduce their contributions to climate change by eliminating their carbon emissions, helping consumers understand the carbon footprint of retail products and transitioning toward a “circular economy” by making resale retail easier and more prevalent.

Find the right approach
As consumers continue to prioritise sustainability in their purchasing decisions, it is essential for retailers to communicate their sustainability efforts transparently and accurately, providing the necessary information for consumers to make informed choices.

If the FTC or EU inappropriately limits the ways companies talk about sustainability or discourages them from talking about it at all, it will make the consumer-driven transition to a more sustainable economy even more difficult. The best way to avoid greenwashing and greenhushing is to encourage accurate, specific and flexible sustainability messaging approaches.

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.just-style.com/news/top-three-tips-to-avoid-greenwashing/

Greenwashing era is over, say ad agencies, as regulators get tough

16 05 2023

Is it over for greenwashing? Photograph: Andre M Chang/Zuma Press/PA Image

Insiders welcome stricter rules in the UK and EU over the use of terms such as ‘carbon neutral’ in adverts, and claims concerned with offsetting. By Ellen Ormesher and Patrick Greenfield via The Guardian • Reposted: May 16, 2023

Across the advertising industry, agencies are wrestling with their role in greenwashing scandals and their support for clients driving the climate and nature crises.

Companies are to face stricter rules from regulators in London and Brussels over what they can tell consumers about their role in the climate crisis and the loss of nature. Terms such as “carbon neutral”, “nature positive” and those concerned with offsetting are to undergo greater scrutiny by organisations such as the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK. In order to take meaningful action, agencies must also reconsider their relationships with major polluters, industry insiders have said.

“The era of unspecific claims such as ‘environmentally friendly’ is over,” said Jonny White, senior business director at AMV BBDO, which works with companies including Diageo, Unilever and Bupa. “Misleading environmental claims are under the microscope from advertising regulators, consumer watchdogs and even governments. The risks of getting it wrong are huge, with brands being shamed publicly when they are guilty of misleading the public,” he said.

Creative members of advertising agencies are having to work closely with their legal teams when advising clients on their climate claims, insiders have said, with an increased risk of fines and advert bans in some countries.

In the UK, the Ad Net Zero programme was launched in 2020 in a bid to reduce the carbon impact of the advertising industry’s operations to net zero by 2030, but many agencies are developing in-house teams for sustainability-focused campaigns.

“In many client organisations, there is still a big gap between the marketing and sustainability teams. They have different, often competing objectives, and are accountable in very different ways,” said Ben Essen, global chief strategy officer at the global marketing agency Iris Worldwide, which works with firms such as Adidas, Starbucks and Samsung, and is also doing the campaign for Cop26.

Essen said there is an “inherent tension” between the need to engage audiences through “often hyperbolic stories” and the need for sustainability teams to deal in the substance.

On Thursday, the European parliament voted to ban claims of carbon neutrality that are based on offsetting. The EU environment commissioner, Virginijus Sinkevičius, said firms would face greater scrutiny about their claims with offsets, but stopped short of supporting a ban, given their potential to fund climate crisis mitigation.


“Climate-related claims have been shown to be particularly prone to being unclear and ambiguous, misleading the consumer. Claims like ‘climate neutral’, ‘carbon neutral’, ‘100% CO2 compensated’ and ‘net zero’ are very often based on offsetting. We need to set things straight for consumers and give them full information,” he said.

Blake Harrop, president of Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam, which works with Airbnb, Meta and Nike, said that the greenwashing clampdown in the EU and UK would provide competitive opportunities for companies that had genuine environmental credentials. “For good brands with good intentions and responsible messaging, I expect there will be little change. But for companies that have oversimplified and overstated their sustainability claims, then life is about to get complicated,” he said.

“It’s an interesting time to work in the legal department of an advertising agency. We need to pay a lot of attention to the opportunities and risks generated by AI, government policies regarding media platforms like TikTok around the world, and of course greenwashing laws.

“If all brands can claim they’re green, then you remove the incentive to win consumers based on superior commitments to the environment. This will hopefully make being an environmentally responsible brand even better for business,” he said.

Within the advertising industry there is ongoing friction regarding agencies continuing to work with fossil fuel companies. Clean Creatives, an organisation based in the US, publishes an annual “F-list” of agencies that work with some of the world’s biggest polluters. It also runs the Clean Creatives pledge, for agencies that want to swear off working with fossil fuel clients in the future. To date, more than 500 agencies have signed up.

However, Ad Net Zero has previously declared it does not stand behind that campaign, with its chair, Seb Munden, saying: “We cannot leave huge swathes of the industry behind.”

To see the original post, follow this link: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2023/may/15/greenwashing-era-is-over-say-ad-agencies-as-regulators-get-tough