Greenwashing is a term used to describe companies who use sustainability as a marketing tactic, rather than taking direct action. Greenwashing often occurs when companies overemphasise the positive environmental impact they have, providing misleading or false information in order to improve their reputation and increase sales.

What regulations are in place?

As more and more cases of greenwashing are being unveiled by activists, non-profits and legal teams, the UK government is strengthening its definition of what counts as a ‘green’ practice. In May, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) also released a response to ‘misleading environmental claims’, outlining the six key principles all environmental claims must follow. They:

  • “Must be truthful and accurate: Businesses must live up to the claims they make about their products, services, brands and activities
  • must be clear and unambiguous: The meaning that a consumer is likely to take from a product’s messaging and the credentials of that product should match
  • must not omit or hide important information: Claims must not prevent someone from making an informed choice because of the information they leave out
  • must only make fair and meaningful comparisons: Any products compared should meet the same needs or be intended for the same purpose
  • must consider the full life cycle of the product: When making claims, businesses must consider the total impact of a product or service. Claims can be misleading where they don’t reflect the overall impact or where they focus on one aspect of it but not another
  • must be substantiated: Businesses should be able to back up their claims with robust, credible and up to date evidence”

Why do brands greenwash?

As we have reached a point of climate emergency, there is a huge amount of pressure for large companies to cut back on their own negative environmental footprint. With big business making up a significant percentage of those contributing for climate change, it is their responsibility to make these changes to save the planet from irreversible damage.

Yet, some companies avoid putting in the time and effort required to improve damaging practices. Instead, they pretend to do so, or do so to a nominal degree, while avoiding the main element of their practices which have a negative impact.

Recently, the practice of greenwashing has been joined by “carbon washing”. Greenwashing mainly focuses on plastic production, which came to light as a cause for concern in the 2000s, while carbon washing focuses more on a company’s carbon footprint. Associated buzzwords such as “carbon negative” and “net zero” are used alongside common terms like “biodegradable”, “compostable”, and “circular”. Both greenwashing and carbon washing demonstrate how brands can easily take advantage of vague terminology attributed to the sustainable movement with little action beside it. This can easily mislead the public, as companies who are positively impacting the environment use the same terminology.

How anaerobic digestion can help brands improve their environmental impact?

Incorporating green energy into a company’s every day practices is an easy, accessible, and effective way to reduce negative environmental impacts. Anaerobic digestion (AD) is one great method for achieving Net Zero, especially for food and drink companies. AD breaks down organic waste and converts it into green energy, which can then be used on-site to power offices, facilities, and machinery, or it can be injected into the national grid to power the homes of local communities across the UK.

While green energy practices are not the only solution for global companies that are looking to authentically and transparently improve their environmental impact, it is a hugely effective first step. Making the switch from fossil fuel burning energy to green energy is an accessible and stress-free way to begin your journey as a genuinely green company.