These days, it makes good business sense to “go green.” Caring for the environment is foremost on many consumers’ minds, and many go out of their way to choose an eco-friendly business for their product and service needs.
However, in the rush to market themselves as environmentally-friendly companies, some businesses make claims about their policies and operations that are less than completely truthful. That’s where “greenwashing” comes in, and where untrue or inaccurate claims of sustainable business practices end up harming a company’s reputation.
Greenwashing, according to TechTarget, refers to “a false, misleading or untrue action or set of claims made by an organization about the positive impact that a company, product or service has on the environment” and/or making claims “about something the organization is doing that is intended to promote a sense of environmental impact that doesn’t exist.”
Greenwashing often occurs in the form of:
- Imprecise labeling or concealing non-eco-friendly business practices in a product’s fine print:
- Use of unverifiable terms like “sustainable” or “eco-friendly” in marketing
- Selective use of some authentic green practices that mask other practices that can potentially harm the environment
In whatever form greenwashing appears, its use is unethical and businesses that get caught engaging in this approach may find their reputation besmirched for years to come.
Not all greenwashing is intentional. Here are tips to ensure your business doesn’t succumb to this misleading business practice:
Assess your marketing materials for any misleading claims.
Ask your marketing team to look closely at all the marketing materials distributed across various platforms, from packaging and fliers to social media posts. When environmental claims are made about your product or service, do they seem unnecessarily vague? Do photos or videos posted on your website imply sustainable practices that don’t actually exist? Can your company back up these claims with scientific proof?
Be sure to only make eco-friendly assertions that are based in fact. “If you’re too eager about your ‘green’ marketing, you can come across as inaccurate,” notes Countingup. When ambiguous claims are made, people may feel “they can’t trust your business” and “you can lose interest and sales.”
Share evidence of your claims to sustainability.
Of course, many businesses do practice eco-friendly policies. But environmentally-friendly consumers may be less suspicious about any claims when they are backed up by evidence of sustainability.
If, for example, a respected environmental organization (such as Energy Star, Sierra Club, etc.) has approved your product or service, “provide appropriate documentation to prove your green practices,” says Greenly. Make any third-party endorsements available to interested parties. After all, “communicating before being urged to do so is the best course of action for an environmentally responsible company.”
Be forthright about your company’s “green goals.”
It takes time, money, and other resources to meet today’s exacting eco-friendly standards. If you are honest with customers about your ambitions to become fully sustainable, you’ll likely incur more goodwill and potential customer loyalty.
On your website and in your marketing materials, outline your strategy for going green, and “be specific about your targets and timelines so consumers can hold you accountable,” advises Business News Daily.
Environmental best practices in business is a hot topic right now. Customer concerns about eco-friendly products and services is likely to only grow stronger in years to come. If you’re not already embarked upon a campaign of sustainability, now is the time to meet the challenge head-on and do everything possible to go green.