This month is B Corp month and as a B Corp certified advertising agency, we have put together a comprehensive guide on greenwashing. In this how-to guide, you will learn how you can personally avoid greenwashing as an agency and help your clients communicate their environmental and sustainability efforts ethically and clearly.
B Corp Month: Our guide to avoiding Greenwashing
What is a B Corp?
By definition, a certified B Corporation, or B Corp, is a for-profit enterprise that meets “the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose."
When it comes to environmental performance a B Corp must achieve a B Impact Assessment score of 80 or above and pass our risk review. Multinational corporations must also meet baseline requirement standards.
Becoming a B Corp is a great way to avoid potential claims of greenwashing as it is a reputable 3rd party certification holding businesses accountable to high environmental standards.
What is greenwashing?
We’ve all heard this buzzword flying around, but what does it actually mean? Greenwashing is the act of misleading or deceptive publicity disseminated by an organisation so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.
An example of greenwashing is the famous case of Volkswagen in America, who deceived consumers with the advertising campaign it used to promote its supposedly “clean diesel” VWs and Audis, which Volkswagen fitted with illegal emission defeat devices designed to mask high emissions during government tests.
How can you know if a company is greenwashing?
It is not always easy to spot greenwashing and often it takes research to see the real truth behind a company's environmental claims. The first thing is to do some online research to look further into the claim and see if there is any evidence to back it up. Things like third-party studies or even news articles can provide information that may disprove the claim a company is making. Further, true green products will often have certifications by an official organisation on their label proving they have passed certain rigorous eco standards (such as B Corp certified!).
How can brands avoid greenwashing?
The most important rule for brands is to not make any claims they can legally substantiate. It is critical to have the evidence publicly displayed. Whether it is on a product label, a website or social media, ensuring you can back up the claim is critical. A lot of claims we see everyday from brands include carbon neutral, 100% green, all-natural and more. It is critical brands provide consumers with clear evidence of those claims to ensure transparency and ethical practices.
The other critical element is to be precise with language. Vague terms can lead to confusion or multiple interpretations, which in turn can lead to misinformation. Vague terms also create a lot of ambiguity to hide behind and be deceitful. It is important to be very specific with your claim so it is easy to understand and can only be interpreted one way. This ensures you are being factual, accurate and honest.
There is a lot more to the discussion of greenwashing to dive into, but we hope you found this guide helpful to understand the basics and fundamentals. Happy B Corp month!