With greater awareness of the dangers to our planet, so inevitably have come more accusations of companies greenwashing. In case the term has passed you by, this is when a company talks the talk but fails to walk the walk, being green when it comes to their marketing blurb but far from it when it comes to being seriously sustainable.
A report by the business comparison experts Bionic studied two hundred of the world’s wealthiest companies to see how many times their names had appeared alongside the term greenwashing. The top ten included giants Apple, Amazon, Dell, Microsoft, Facebook / Meta, and less surprisingly, perhaps Ford and Shell. It is easy to get depressed, but small companies can concentrate on contributing their own efforts and leading the way.
Simple, Practical – no greenwash
Here are some ideas on any small company could avoid being one that greenwashes without costing a fortune:
Banning single-use plastic
I am not sure how anyone, climate denier or otherwise, could not be concerned about the plastic debris destroying oceans and rivers worldwide. Here in the UK, we brought in the plastic bag charge in 2014, meaning all plastic bags were charged at 5p. Now, groceries from many stores are delivered loose. Yet only a couple of years ago, I suggested it to a local farm shop and was told it would put customers off. Yet the success of the scheme speaks for itself. Since it came into force, the use of single-use plastic bags has dropped by an incredible 80%.
Water coolers are often another source of more damage with single-use plastic cups. Buy some appealing alternatives that each team member can use and re-use instead. Imagine what a difference that could make over the year. Customers have adapted, and small businesses should not be afraid of doing away with single-use plastic for good.
While we are getting better about recycling at home, is it part of your business? A combination of commitment and ease of use wins the day on this one. Have a brainstorm with your team and assess what, if anything, you do right now and how you can make a difference by setting up simple and easy solutions to ensure rubbish is correctly recycled.
One of the big culprits in workspaces is the printer. The paper consumption can be incredible, and much of it is unnecessary. The pandemic encouraged more people to go digital, too, with a combination of ever-increasing awareness of the environment combined with the warnings that infections were being transmitted from the passing of paper.
A recent study found that 54% of shoppers in the UK aged 35-45 preferred digital receipts, while the number was higher for 25–35-year olds at 55%. If you aren’t already, consider binning the printer and at least ask each customer if they need a printed receipt.
With rocketing prices, most business owners are thinking power. So, there can be a double benefit here both in terms of green impact and costs and zero sense in greenwashing. There are two types of energy deals to choose from, one being the energy that comes from renewable sources and the other where what you use is offset by the supplier. But in addition to this, it is about looking at consumption.
A little bit more brainstorming and a bit of research could save you colossal amounts as well as benefit the planet. Treat the work space as you would your home and look at heat loss, from insulation to wastage. Office equipment is available in low-energy alternatives and is well worth looking into. And while looking at how green you are, look at your packaging and your vehicles too.
Are your suppliers greenwashing?
With the pandemic also exposing the risks to a global supply chain as logistics broke down, more companies have re-assessed and brought their supply chains on shore, which is good for the environment as well. But more than that, it is also well worth assessing how green your suppliers are.
Many now have a CSR policy (corporate social responsibility) that considers the company’s social, economic, and environmental impacts. If you haven’t one already, perhaps this is the time to have your own CSR policy too to demonstrate your commitment, that you aren’t greenwashing.
instead of earning a reputation for greenwashing with flaky marketing claims, use social media to share what you are doing and your innovations and ask your customers for feedback and more ideas. Involve your team and customers to share their thoughts and what they are doing.
Work out innovative rewards that don’t cost the business massive amounts but still reward the customers for contributing to the green efforts. Turn your fans and your community into a green movement. Good for business and the environment.
Encourage your team to go green and choose plants for their workspaces. More oxygen produced by the plants is scientifically proven to make for happier people.
We can all hold forth with outrage when we spot greenwashing. But better to stop pointing the finger and join the small businesses that are going greener. There are approximately 400 million SMEs across the world. That is a considerable amount of green power.