In this day and age sustainability is not just an option, but also an expectation. In the past fifty years environmental education has drastically increased to the point where most people really care about and worry about how our earth is being treated. It is not enough for individuals to take a stand and change the way they operate daily however. Big and small businesses need to make sustainable production a priority now or Mother Nature will continue to crumble. A lot of companies and businesses alike are taking drastic steps to prove to their consumers that they all they can to reduce their carbon footprint and save our environment. With this surge in sustainable production there has also been an increase in green washing incidents.
Every single day American consumers are exposed to media and propaganda about environmentally friendly commercial practices, but of those businesses that are promising sustainability, how many are actually green? To prevent your business from getting involved in a green washing scandal there are a few steps your can take to ensure your products and resources that you broadcast as green, really are. As a small business owner, it is your responsibility to do your part to be honest with your community and customers, and help put an end to green washing.
Respected companies like Shell, and BP have lost the trust of their consumers by promising green practices, and not following through. And although some businesses are actually committed to making the world a greener place, other businesses are making the mistake of misdealing their consumers.
How to Stop Greenwash
To stop green washing, businesses, big and small need to take an active role in fixing the world’s environmental issues by making changes to their internal policies and practices. At the other end of the spectrum consumers also need to take responsibility to hold journalists and companies accountable for their actions. Greenpeace has provided a Greenwash Criteria that can help the general public decipher between green and greenwash.
Additionally consumers have the option of complaining and reporting incidents of greenwashing online to the Federal Trade Commission, which is charged with taking action against misleading advertisements – however the FTC has not taken action against any greenwashing since early 2000.
How To Prevent Your Business from Getting Involved in A Greenwashing Scandal
The best way to prevent your business from becoming involved in a greenwashing scandal is to avoid greenwashing all together. Practice environmentally sound production techniques, and be open and honest with your consumers about how your business operates. Do not falsely advertise anything, especially being environmentally friendly!
To offer your consumers an accurate depiction of your environmental policies, you yourself need to be fully aware of how everything your business does affects the environment.
· Research: Be sure to research all of the vendors you use to make sure they are also operating in an environmentally conscious manner
· Be transparent: If you position yourself as a green company be prepared to be critically examined. Be honest and open about how your business operates.
· Communicate: Effective communication between your business and your consumers is imperative. A lot of larger businesses are releasing Corporate Social Responsibility Reports to the public that disclose how the company views environmental issues and any programs or initiatives they are involved with.
· Brand Green and Actually Be Green: if your business does indeed practice environmentally friendly production standards then brand your image! Make sustainability an important part of what your business is all about.
Unfortunately there are a lot of recent examples of greenwashing, especially in the United States, where image is often times more important than honesty. A few of the biggest industries that are responsible for the majority of greenwashing efforts in the U.S. include the food industry (primarily meats and produce) and the beauty industry.
Tyson, a nationwide distributor or meat was recently busted for promising all natural chickens although they were treating them wit antibiotics and feeding them GMO corn. Herbal Essences, a brand of Clairol’s beauty also claimed that their products were organic, however a quick look at their ingredients list proves that thirty-three of their products proved otherwise.
Don’t set your business up to be a villain in the world by lying to your consumer base – its never a good idea. Another aspect of greenwashing all business owners should understand is that they are not just hurting themselves when they lie about environmentally friendly practices, they are hurting everyone, even those who do not use their products! Greenwashing a world epidemic and the only way to stop it is for business owners and consumers a like to take a stand!