Why We Hate Green Wash


The Global CSR RepTrack 100 Report showed that CSR is seen as important to consumers, but also highlights that there is a general lack of trust in brands and the claims made in this area.

Awareness in sustainability has increased to the point that a wider range of segments are actively searching for information on the sustainability credentials of products, services and companies before purchasing. Making your claims authentic and meaningful has never been so important for the reputation of your company. This is an opportunity for you to act now and respond to these needs, and an opportunity to differentiate through going the extra mile.

In 2007, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) saw the amount of environmentally based complaints for adverts quadrupling. This made green credentials a big issue and, in response, the Department for the Environment, Farming and Rural Affairs (Defra) created The Green Claims Guidance to help businesses make authentic sustainability claims. The guide aims to set a platform for businesses and consumers to have trust in green claims and forms a basis for regulating the claims. The interpretation of the guidance in essence, it is to keep claims clear, specific and very well substantiated – particularly if a point of comparison is being made.

Research around CSR has found that reporting can increase relationships with consumers if the consumer can identify with the claims that the company is making. A Millward Brown study looking at corporate reputation found that around 20% of sales are influenced by corporate reputation and 10% of a company’s influence can directly relate to perceived environmental behaviour.

These percentages could mean multi-millions of sales are influenced by the investment into sustainability programmes. Those that implement sustainability throughout the organisation and include it in corporate missions have better relationships with customers, as well as employees and have also been proven numerous times to provide, on average, greater returns to shareholders than those who do not.

The flip side is that the Carbon Trust found the number of people who would reject brands that don’t make any efforts to measure and reduce the carbon footprint of their products and services has doubled to 45%. That’s nearly one in every two shoppers! Obviously there is a difference between what people say and what they will do in reality, as proven by the short-lived boycotts for some of the major brands avoiding taxes in the UK, however it is showing a shift in public sentiment. People are getting increasingly savvy, little by little, to detecting lack of effort and greenwash.