Greenwashing Guide

Monday 1st December

Greenwashing can erode trust in the sustainability credentials of companies and products, so we’ve put together these guidelines to help you guard against the practice.

Greenwash is ‘misleading sustainability information’ created to boost the image of products and organisations.

Though sometimes purposeful, much greenwashing takes place simply because of a lack of understanding of sustainability issues – and how best to communicate them.

• Before you start communicating your credentials, your sustainability performance should be strong in general terms, or you could be accused of misleading customers by cherry-picking the few positive attributes.

• Always back up you sustainability claims with strong technical/scientific evidence, and verify that evidence via an independent third-party organisation/scheme, where possible.

• Words such as “green”, “eco-friendly” and “low carbon” are perfectly OK, if you back them up with concrete evidence, including technical/scientific evidence. Comparative and absolute claims must also be substantiated with evidence. Unqualified claims are best avoided, however accurate they are. CAP has produced useful guidance on green claims.

• Choose your third-party sustainability endorsements and eco-labels wisely, and avoid misleading labels.

• When communicating sustainability credentials, it is good practice to ensure the whole supply chain – and product lifecycle – is sustainable – how sustainable are your suppliers? If you manufacture a “green product”, have you performed a Life Cycle Analysis and audited your manufacturing facility and its supply chain?

• Proceed carefully if there’s a lack of scientific consensus over a potential sustainability credential. Otherwise, your claim could be seen as misleading, and may well be disputed.

• When using images to communicate your credentials, ensure they accurately portray your impact, without over-emphasising sustainability performance. Fluffy green images are a favourite of greenwashers.

• It’s usually best not to communicate the sustainability credentials of a product or service with a powerfully negative image. Also, unless your company is a real trailblazer, it’s rarely a good idea to claim sustainability leadership in a poorly performing niche/sector.

This is just a quick overview – for more detailed and specific advice on green and sustainability claims, and how best to avoid greenwashing, contact EcoCognito today.


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