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Jessi Baker MBE, the founder and CEO of the transparency tech company Provenance.org explains why companies must disclose their shortcomings to be transparent about their sustainability strategy.
Sustainability certifications are not just a health factor. With 79 percent of consumers changing their purchasing preferences based on environmental considerations, Green claims are vital to the health of your business by 2022. This is an edge in the competition that many businesses are fighting to gain.
However, the last twelve months have demonstrated that many companies are failing to capitalize on the growing number of conscious buyers. In Europe, we’ve seen huge companies from almost every industry openly criticized for greenwashing, such as Danish Crown, Alpro, Adidas, and Coca-Cola.
The Changing Markets Foundation found that 60% of the claims made by the UK and European fashion brands are misleading to shoppers. Likewise, a British study found that 69 percent of consumers are unsure or do not believe the sustainability claims made by beauty and health firms.
Making a mistake with green claims does not just damage trust in the consumer but increases the risk of legal actions.
The regulatory bodies across Europe are shifting their attention towards combating deceitful environmental claims. Starting in January 2022, all businesses making sustainability claims must comply with the Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) “Green Claims Code’. Meanwhile, the European Commission’s “Green Claims Initiative’ is in the process of creating a framework for a policy that does not allow excessive or incorrect eco claims.
However, while the dangers of green washing allegations can be real, avoiding the issue isn’t an option.
Businesses that want to remain relevant in the climate crisis need to make strides on their environmental and social impacts and communicate this effectively. What can companies do to stay clear of the green washing trap until 2022?
Green washing is now a regular occurrence in large businesses – be sure you’re not a part of the problem. Canv
5. Make sure you can prove each assertion
European regulators are united in their calls for clear evidence for environmental-related claims. In 2022, companies must be able to support each claim with easily accessible and clear proof from their supply chain and, when possible, verification by a third party.
To satisfy this requirement, companies must ensure that all research is supported by scientifically proven research and inquire if the evidence is accessible to the public, or can consumers verify the assertions?
Giving this evidence and keeping it up with the latest information – requires collaboration between sustainability and marketing teams. Therefore, the first stage for many will be a change in the organization.
4. Technology is a great tool to help you.
Sharing sufficient proof and clarity on environmental and social claims is the business’s real challenge of having limited space for packaging materials. How do they communicate all the data needed with customers?
To truly assist their customers in living sustainable lives, companies are also required to provide education on environmental and social issues. This only increases the need to think about new communication channels.
To ensure clarity and brevity to keep things simple and concise, to keep the information concise and clear, CMA recommends that businesses adopt the digital world. For e-commerce transactions, complete evidence can be made accessible via clickable claims. In contrast, claims on the packaging can be made more appealing by inviting consumers to look into the evidence using scanning a QR code.
- Climate activists protest against “green washing” at COP26.
- New York hopes to avoid the worst effects of climate change by implementing a resiliency plan.
- Eighty activists block Shell’s port in protest against ads that promote ‘green washing.’
3. The story behind your product
What you don’t talk about regarding the effect of your product can be a deciding factor.
By 2022, we’ll see more companies being criticized for cherry-picking favorable claims based on the specific aspect of the product’s effect.
To ensure that you do not fall into this trap, make sure you focus on the areas where your business has the greatest impact. It’s tempting to build your next campaign on a single ingredient responsible for 3 percent of your environmental footprint. Still, if 97 percent of your environmental impact is due to packaging, you should focus on your progress on the packaging front instead.
The full impact of your product isn’t a requirement to claim to prove a particular aspect of the life-cycle of a product. However, it does mean that you must make it transparent when doing so. When you’re making green claims, Honesty – not perfect is the goal. Canva
2. Be aware of recyclability
Recent research shows that the recycling of plastics in the UK is the top concern for people who want to live more environmentally. However, the UN Environment Programme recently found that just 17 percent of the analyzed labels provide consumers with sufficient information for making informed decisions about buying and recycling decisions.
In 2022, companies must clearly define which elements of a package or product can be recycled and offer easy-to-read disposal guidelines. With the Extended Producer Responsibility law to be implemented to British companies by 2023, businesses will have to respond not only to consumer demands but also to the law.
The On-Pack Recycling-Label – recognized by the UN Environment Programme as international best practice is the ideal place to start. Provenance is also combating inconsistencies across different councils in boroughs by launching a brand new tool that will help manufacturers provide instructions for recycling in specific locations online and off-pack.
1. Don’t put off achieving the perfect result.
In the case of green claims, Honesty – not perfect is the objective.
To be the leader in the climate crisis, companies should set a precedent for others to follow, which means communicating about progress and errors when appropriate.
This year the editor of Vogue, Bella Webb, identified ‘brutal Honesty as the latest look for sustainable marketing. This is the method by which businesses are “admitting their mistakes and refusing the label “sustainable” to gain trust with consumers and to earn their forgiveness.”
The trend is being led by Ace & Tate, who published a blog post in September, highlighting their lapses on sustainability. Then there’s GANNI, the fashion label that is now delivering reliable transparency in its supply chain.
I understand the reluctance of businesses to admit their mistakes. However, covering up these problems with well-designed sustainability-focused marketing campaigns is not just a threat to the sustainability of our planet. It is also a significant threat to consumers’ trust in their company.