On Earth Day, many companies will be patting themselves on the back for their achievements and commitments around sustainability. But be warned: over-selling your green credentials can get you into trouble.
As global charity Oxfam releases its report praising corporate giants such as Nestle and Unilever for reducing deforestation and emissions caused by their supply chains, it’s easy to think it’s a no brainer to tout a brand as “green”. But some brands are not as green as they appear. Volkswagen is the most prominent poster child of Greenwashing but other hot brands such as Blue Apron are being taken to task for using too much packaging. Keurig Green Mountain, which prides itself on having appointed a Chief Sustainability Officer, got a public dressing-down recently over its efforts to make its K-cups recyclable – the coffee pod is still deemed fundamentally too wasteful. Coffee drinkers, it seems, have a particularly powerful green magnifying glass; customer dismay at paper cups labeled as recyclable but that habitually ended up in landfill prompted a creative rethink by Starbucks, for example. Many focus on changing consumer habits, like Buffalo Exchange, which no longer offers shopping bags, or Boxed Water, which uses recyclable paper containers. Another way to go is the approach taken by Walmart, which frames its sustainability effort as simply a logical extension of its relentless drive for efficiency. Whatever your sustainability credentials, are you guilty of over-selling them? Your brand could use a greenwash check asap.