As more companies declare that they are sustainable, there are some who are not being honest or who overstate their so-called green practices or products. Greenwashing is a term used to describe the perception of consumers that they are being misled by a company regarding the environmental practices of the company or the environmental benefits of a product or service.
Here are 5 principles that you can apply in the marketing of green businesses, products and services, and to avoid being accused of greenwashing. Use them effectively and they will help minimise negative feedback from consumers and green NGOs.
1. Do Your Homework
Find out and understand the sustainability expectations of green NGOs and your consumers. Ensure that the green claims of your business, product or service are true and consistent with their expectations. It is also important to look at your entire business supply chain and check whether any aspect of your operations contradict your green claims.
2. Be Honest and Humble
If your company or product is not 100% green, admit it. Nothing is perfect and everyone will appreciate your honesty. Acknowledge the areas of your product or business that are not yet green and commit to work on it, don’t wait for others to point out the discrepancies. State your green claims as it is and don’t exaggerate and make it sound as if you’re saving the planet. Let the consumers, media, NGOs and environmentalists tell your green story and blow your trumpet.
3. Keep it Transparent
Make it easy for your customers to understand and check the green claims you are making. Are your green claims certified based on established ecolabels, methods or experts? The information on your green claims and relevant details should be made accessible to the public.
4. Work with Stakeholders
Engage your stakeholders, both internal and external, in a dialogue on your green marketing. Are your green claims acceptable to your staff, suppliers, customers, NGOs and the community? Gather feedback from them on whether you’re on the right track or seen to be greenwashing.
5. Focus on the Journey
Emphasise in your green marketing that being more sustainable in your business or product is a journey and not the end. Acknowledge areas that are environmentally unacceptable, commit to improve those areas, and seek feedback and help from your customers and the public on your sustainability journey.
These are some simple principles to remember and apply when you’re marketing green practices, businesses, products and services. They are not meant to be comprehensive but if you use them effectively, you would reduce the risk of being accused of greenwashing.