Greenwashing is detrimental to both business and the common effort to avert the climate crisis, claims Norwegian organization Skift, supported by over 200 companies. Their call to action is supported by other business networks, as well as former CEO of Unilever, Paul Polman, and the President of European Parliament Environment Committee, Pascal Canfin.
“Responsible businesses worldwide need to collaborate to fight greenwashing”, says Bjørn Kjærand Haugland, the CEO of a Norwegian business network Skift – Business Climate Leaders. The organization has launched a guide with ten principles for businesses to avoid the common pitfalls of greenwashing, which can be found at stopgreenwashing.no. The organization encourages companies to sign it, claiming that they will do their utmost to uphold the principles. Over 200 Norwegian companies have already done so.
“We see that lots of companies end up greenwashing, without necessarily intending to do so. They just lack the knowledge to fully assess the impacts of their products and services. This guide aims to help companies avoid this”, says Haugland.
The guide takes on everything from word use and phrasing to marketing budgets and climate quotas. It defines the activity of greenwashing as a form of misleading marketing or communication, where a product, service or company is presented as “better” in respect to climate change, the environment or human rights issues, without proper documentation to back this claim.
The former CEO of Unilever and co-founder of the organization Imagine, Paul Polman, supports the campaign. “As more and more businesses make commitments to pivot to more sustainable and equitable business models that work for all stakeholders it is key to hold ourselves accountable and work transparently to close the often perceived too big “Say-do” gap. Business has a unique opportunity here to build trust and ultimately prosperity for all. A crucial leadership moment” says Polman.
The Guide is also welcomed by Pascal Canfin, President of European Parliament Environment Committee, who earlier this year gathered 180 political decision-makers, business leaders, trade unions, NGOs, and think tanks to form a European alliance for a Green Recovery earlier this year. “The transition towards climate neutrality by 2050 is the challenge of our generation. We will overcome it through the successful implementation of the European Green Deal and the investment in a sustainable recovery to avoid further crisis. I welcome this guide as it shows that business is ready to deliver and act differently – now. It’s crucial for companies to put sustainability at the core of their business models and promote good and transparent practices about their transition journey”, he says.
All businesses are welcome to sign the guide, to send a signal to both their customers, employees and business-partners. Haugland at Skift underlines that the guide is a campaign to raise awareness and help businesses, and that it is the governing bodies of the respective countries around the world that have to enforce the laws on marketing. He encourages making this form of marketing illegal, as a lot of countries, including Norway, already have. “However, there are a lot of grey areas, and limited budgets for these public institutions, so businesses have to do their part”, he concludes.
The global launch is supported by more than 200 companies and global organizations such as the Green Recovery Alliance in Europe, Sustainable Business Network (CER) in Slovenia, Business Council for Sustainable Development (BCSD) in Portugal and Center for Responsible Leadership (CRL) in New York. The campaign was originally launched in Norway after Skift was challenged by activists to take action on the issue, with the support of Norwegian branch of WWF, and the organizations ZERO and Future in our hands.