With watchdog organisations and individuals ready to call out brands for greenwashing, how certain can we be that what brands are conveying to the public is a true representation?
It is the responsibility of a communications professional and the brand to work together and make sure interaction with the public is done honestly and ethically. Before we could even fully understand what PR was, we knew it was our job to communicate the truth or in some instances, know when not to say anything at all.
It calls into question if the language we use around environmental sustainability should be more closely regulated. No governing body has the capacity or financial backing to monitor or interject the issue of greenwashing on the scale of which it is happening. A recent report by the Changing Markets Foundation found that 60% of sustainability claims by fashion giants were in fact instances of greenwashing (https://www.edie.net/news/7/Report–60–of-sustainability-claims-by-fashion-giants-are-greenwashing/).
Unfortunately, as greenwashing isn’t necessarily lying, not much can be done to stop it. Though, public exposition and mass boycott is often used to discourage others from doing it. An example Scottish climate activist, Laura young (@LessWasteLaura), offered to explain how greenwashing can work, al be it a bit extreme, is that fossil fuels are technically a natural product harvested from the very earth itself, so what’s to stop oil companies from selling their product as *Natural!?* *cue picture of an oil drum surrounded by green leaves*. Well for one, there must have been a clever individual who came up with the idea for the messaging in the first place, and two, a full comms team working hard to sell that messaging to the public.
Communications professionals have the privilege of being a barricade, a gateway that can either allow or prevent messages from going out into the world. We have the ability to prevent clients from deceiving the public through our choice of language.
The longer companies get away with greenwashing, the longer we postpone actual change being made. Organisations will continue to be destructive if they aren’t held accountable and consumers will continue to buy non-sustainable products and services if they don’t know any better.
It’s therefore our responsibility to ensure we have an in-depth understanding of our clients, who they are and what they do. Not to be mistaken for who they say they are and what they say they do.
It’s our role to unpick the language clients are feeding us and get to the bottom of the real meaning behind the words.
Natural, organic, eco-friendly, green (that’s a personal favourite).
From suggestive pictures with no meaning behind them *exhibit a – H&M ‘Conscious collection’* to companies with one sustainable product at the face of their dirty operation. This is all within the realms of communications and all completely avoidable if we choose to question the message we are portraying and ultimately stop anything misleading from leaving the drafts. For further troublesome green-sheen tactics, please refer to Green Impacts 10 signs of Greenwashing: https://www.greenimpact.com/tips/environmental-marketing-greenwashing-tips-for-staying-out-of-trouble/
If we truly want to turn things around and begin to reduce self-destruction inflicted on our planet, then it is up to us, the comms professionals to work alongside clients to eliminate forms of greenwashing. . Ultimately, making a positive impact on the environment comes down to influencing behaviour change, so there is a role for comms professionals to play here in making that happen.