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How to NOT greenwash

Greenwashing is a technique that consists in using ecological arguments in a misleading and abusive way. It concerns all messages that could mislead the public on the quality of a service, an action or on the reality of an approach around the environment and can even be an obstacle to the ecological transition because it creates doubt and a loss of confidence.

Some companies sometimes leave too much freedom to their services or communication agencies and, while the approach is sincere and real, make communication errors that can lead people to think (wrongly) that they are engaging in Greenwashing.

Here are the three pitfalls to avoid:

1. Images and words emptied of their meaning

This is the first mistake: the use of the color green and all the symbols related to ecology - leaves, trees, a waterfall, the earth between two hands... - without any concrete explanation. It is also often accompanied by a whole lexical field: "Green, eco-responsible, sustainable, circular. If you have nothing really concrete to communicate about possible positive impacts, avoid using these visual codes. Focus your communication on facts, measurements, KPIs.

2. False promises

The great "ESG fashion" is to promise carbon neutrality. Except that this principle can only apply to the planet or, at the very least, to a State, not to a company. So, beware. And promising to offset carbon emissions can also be very ambiguous. For example, planting trees can be catastrophic. Access to land may be at the expense of local communities, fast-growing species may be favored with deleterious effects on biodiversity. Your company should only commit to what is truly under its control.

3. Partial communication

The problem is when companies focus all their communication on a single effort. For example, in the field of clothing, promoting an exemplary collection, all vegetable and very clean. Except that it concerns only one model out of a hundred produced, but often 100% of the communication. A company can propose a more ecological niche product but it must be part of a general approach. In other words, do not be satisfied with showing a virtuous tree that hides a forest of less pleasing actions.

Summary: To avoid creating doubts about greenwashing, it is necessary to communicate on the coherence of a company's global approach to its impacts, to focus on measurable facts and KPIs and to avoid the most common symbols that have been used too often.