What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing refers to the misleading practice of a business exaggerating or falsely claiming to be more environmentally friendly or sustainable than it actually is. 

Essentially, it’s when a business attempts to present itself as more eco-conscious or ethically driven than it is to attract environmentally-conscious customers, investment or funding and improve its public image. 

Greenwashing can mislead consumers, undermine genuine efforts towards sustainability, and ultimately harm the environment.

To avoid greenwashing as a business, consider the following steps:

  1. Be transparent: Be honest and transparent about your company’s sustainability practices and initiatives. If there are areas where your business needs to improve, acknowledge them and communicate your plans for improvement.
  1. Set clear goals: Establish specific and measurable sustainability goals. Whether it’s reducing carbon emissions, minimising waste, or sourcing sustainable materials, clearly outline your objectives and track your progress over time.
  1. Get certified: Seek third-party certifications from reputable organisations that validate your sustainability claims. Some well-known certifications include ISO 14001, B Corp, BREEAM, Good Business Charter, and Carbon Literacy. These certifications lend credibility to your sustainability efforts.
  1. Back-up claims with data: When making sustainability claims, provide data and evidence to support them. Use quantifiable metrics to demonstrate your progress and impact.
  1. Avoid ambiguous language: Avoid vague or ambiguous terms such as “eco-friendly” or “green.” These terms can be misinterpreted, so it’s better to be specific about your sustainable practices.
  1. Educate and involve employees: Ensure that your employees understand and are actively involved in your sustainability goals in the implementation process. Their support and engagement can make a significant difference. 
  1. Avoid “Green” distractions: Focus on meaningful and impactful sustainability efforts rather than superficial changes designed only for marketing purposes. Avoid using eco-friendly messaging as a cover-up for unrelated unsustainable practices.
  2. Consider a life-cycle approach: Assess your product or service’s environmental impact throughout its life cycle—from raw materials to production, distribution, and disposal. Identify areas for improvement and take steps to reduce adverse effects.
  1. Engage stakeholders: Involve customers, suppliers, investors, and other stakeholders in your sustainability journey. Seek feedback and be open to suggestions for improvement.
  1. Continuously improve: Sustainability is an ongoing process. Regularly review and update your sustainability initiatives to align with evolving best practices and address new challenges. Monitor and review your efforts regularly as part of your governance. 


By taking these steps and committing to genuine sustainability efforts, your business can avoid greenwashing and build a positive reputation among environmentally-conscious consumers. Ethical and transparent sustainability practices can contribute to your company’s long-term success and resilience.

Who are Be Ethical?

With 35+ years of experience in responsible business practices, Be Ethical support forward-thinking leaders to succeed on their sustainability journeys.

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