MT Expert's Ten Top Tips: Avoid accusations of greenwash

We all understand that saving energy can have the added benefit of saving a few bob. Harry Morrison explains how to communicate your carbon credentials with credibility...

by Harry Morrison
Last Updated: 09 Oct 2013
Most businesses are aware that alongside the environmental benefits, there are also financial advantages to making your business more eco-friendly. But consumers have learned to become cynical about business’ environmental claims: indeed, research by the the Carbon Trust Standard shows only 7% believe companies when they say they’ve taken action on climate change and 66% question whether companies are genuinely cutting carbon emissions.

We asked the Carbon Trust’s Harry Morrison how best to communicate real action and avoid accusations of greenwash:

1. Measurement comes first
Measuring your emissions is the starting point. A robust measure of your carbon footprint will help decide the most effective initiatives to focus on for your organisation.

2. Set stretch targets
Most top companies now declare targets to improve their environmental performance. Setting quality targets will help you position your company as a visionary in its field.

3. Get independent certification   
60% of consumers need third party evidence of action from a respected climate change body before believing corporate claims. Striving for independent certification against recognised standards, such as PAS 2050 or the Carbon Trust Standard, will provide that assurance.

4. Lead communications from the top
Communicate your carbon strategies and targets from the top. That way, it will be clear to your customers and stakeholders that your environmental policies are taken seriously by the organisation.

5. Mobilise employees
Long-lasting and genuine change requires collective staff effort. By encouraging the workforce to use energy responsibly, it’s possible to not only boost your abilities to cut carbon, but also retain the best staff.
 
6. Work with your the supply chain
Responsibility for carbon emissions stretches across the entire supply chain. Whether you’re looking to win a place on a green supply chain, or appoint potential suppliers – carbon is increasingly emerging as the new criteria for selection.

7. The complete package
Carbon reduction isn’t just an environment manager’s responsibility. Companies need to convey the whole picture, not just a few high profile examples. Working with your marketing team on a sustained communication strategy to talk about your on-going achievements in carbon reduction is one way of achieving this.

8. Encourage stakeholder endorsement
One of the best ways to share the success of your environmental strategies is through third-party endorsement. Collaborate with other organisations, such as customers, partners, NGOs or other stakeholders to amplify your message.

9. Engage your customers
A key to success is to be transparent in your communications. Companies are increasingly using social media sites to engage with customers in a more meaningful way. According to our research, one in three opt into companies that go ‘above and beyond’ to reduce their long-term impact on climate change by following or becoming ‘friends’ with organisations on social networking sites.

10. Take early action   
Don’t wait for legislation to force your hand and lose the competitive advantage. A proactive posture on carbon reduction will help position your company as serious about its environmental policy.

- Harry Morrison is managing director at the Carbon Trust Standard

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