what is greenwashing?

What is greenwashing and why is it used?

Posted in: News

Galloways take a look at what greenwashing is, why it is used by companies; how to spot it, and how to stop it.

At Galloways, we recognise the importance of our environmental responsibilities. We’re proud to be a certified sustainable printer, offering our customers sustainable print solutions. After all, an eco-friendly future includes sustainable printing.

Unfortunately, it is becoming more common that some businesses are concentrating more on their marketing than their behaviours. Sometimes, businesses make spurious claims about how green their product or service is,  claims that cannot be substantiated. This seen-to-be-green self-promotion has its own term – greenwashing.

What is greenwashing?

“Greenwashing is the practice of making an unsubstantiated or misleading claim about the environmental benefits of a product, service, technology or company practice.”

Two Sides

Companies exhort to “Think before you Print!”, “Go Paperless, Go Green”, and “Save Paper, Save Trees”. Financial organisations and utility companies urge consumers to access on-line bills and statements.

This drive to digital can save costs, and has added convenience for the (majority of) customers. But the inference – that moving to digital saves the environment – is green washing. These messages are unsubstantiated and misleading. They don’t take into account the environmental impact of digital communication.

Green washing has a lasting effect on consumer perceptions of paper, and our industry.

Two Sides is a not-for-profit initiative, formed in 2008 by companies from the graphic communications supply chain. Members are forestry, pulp, paper, inks and chemicals, pre-press, press, finishing, publishing, printing, envelopes and postal operators.

The forum is driving the improvement of industry standards and practices, and seeks to dispel the common environmental misconceptions that dog the print and paper industry. Two Sides provides verifiable information on why print and paper is “an attractive, practical and sustainable” communications medium.

Two Sides Anti-Greenwash campaign has successfully challenged more 750 global organisations, primarily service providers like banks, utilities and telecoms, that subject their customers to the industry-damaging greenwashing messages. In the UK the campaign has preserved £11.2 million per annum value of paper, and stopped greenwash messages being seen more than 209 million times each year.

Greenwashing represents a potential loss of £22.4 million of value annually for the paper, print and mailing industry in the UK. It poses a significant threat to an industry that employs in the UK, 116,000 people (1,096,000 EU), in more than 8,400 businesses (115,700 EU).

The UK’s Competition and Marketing Authority has pledged to tackle misleading green claims. Green buzzwords such as “organic”, “sustainable” and “eco-friendly” are so commonly used, how can you recognise what is green and what has been greenwashed?

Not as green as cabbage looking

Sometimes, it takes a little digging, but an internet search is often all it takes to find material to verify, or debunk, a business’ claims.

Classic greenwashing techniques include using “green” imagery. This might include using images of leaves, animals, or adopting green or neutral palette tones. A book of any sort is an immersive experience for the end user. The tactical, physical properties of a book are as important as the content of its pages. So it’s no surprise that another form of greenwashing is to use eco-friendly packaging purporting to be made of natural materials, such as card, paper, or fabric.  To describe itself as green, a business should use only packaging made from sustainable, chemical-free, cruelty-free, materials.

Some businesses market themselves as green, making false claims that they are affiliated with accredited green bodies. A quick internet check, and you’ll know for sure whether this is true. Businesses should be able to back-up their green claims with data from credible sources, such as third party certification.

Green or mean?

Environmental, social, and governance (ESG) demands that businesses are socially responsible, behaving ethically, openly, and in the best interests of not just the business, but the societies and environments in which it operates.

Truly green companies are working hard to minimise, and offset, their impact on the environment.

Businesses that greenwash are falsely laying claim to the environmentally essential work that is done to protect, and sustain, our world. By greenwashing to make itself look better, a business puts at risk its reputation, its bottom line, and the planet itself.

Green and pleasant brand

Businesses that are truly green will make their claims clear, and specific. Consumers will be able to understand claims easily, EG 85% recycled, 95% recyclable packaging. Greenwashing includes using vague terms – made from recycled paper.

A good green business will have verified data to back up its claims. They’ll probably make it easy to find too, via their website or on request. If it’s greenwashing, you won’t find it easy to verify, or even find.

True green third party certifications will come from reputable, credible bodies, such as the Forest Stewardship Council, and World Land Trust. Companies that work with these organisations will be proud of the partnership, and they’ll definitely be displaying their eco-credentials through co-branding. And they’ll have an impressive client list and some great examples of their work. If you can’t verify the certification claims, or their portfolio, it’s probably greenwashing.

Green-conscious businesses will have a clear environmental strategy, and be transparent about their performance, with specific targets and timelines. Ambiguous, broad-sweeping statements with no plan or processes are often a sign of a business that is greenwashing.

Green light

If you’re looking for ways to lower your carbon footprint, and a greener path to tread, ask us about carbon balanced paper. Using carbon balanced paper for your print guarantees a perfect print AND is a way to meet, and exceed, environmental policy targets effectively, and affordably.

Galloways is proud to be one of only 24% of UK businesses actively measuring average carbon emissions. We don’t stop there, either. We go further by offsetting – balancing the impacts of our business carbon emissions through our partnership with World Land Trust. And we can also carbon balance the paper we buy on behalf of our customers.

66%  of global consumers are more loyal to, and willing to pay more for, sustainable brands, and household names like HelloFresh, Sainsbury’s, and MoonPig now work only with Carbon Balanced printers, like Galloways.

Your print project is greener, with Galloways.

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