Greenwashing: The Elephant in the Room

What it is and how to avoid it.

December 14, 2020

We’re proud of the quality of work we deliver at Radicle, every time and all the time. This value is one among many that we continue to live by – as we grow and develop our global cleantech solutions. That’s why we figured we’d roll up our sleeves, and with a no-nonsense approach, we’d discuss the elephant in the room: Greenwashing. Ready to dig in?

Pop quiz: What is greenwashing (green·​wash·​ing | \ ˈgrēn-ˌwȯ-shiŋ)? Merriam-Webster defines greenwashing as “expressions of environmentalist concerns, especially as a cover for products, policies, or activities.” Or, in the words of sustainability provocateur Leyla Acaroglu in an article for UNSCHOOL, greenwashing is “when companies invest more time and money on marketing their products or brand as ‘green’ rather than actually doing the hard work to ensure that it is sustainable.” 

Elizabeth Sheehan, President of Climate Smart (a Radicle Group Company), explains Greenwashing by giving the following scenario.

“Take the case of two companies on a path to achieve net-zero. Company A chooses to gain an understanding of their emissions by measuring their carbon footprint. They take actions to improve their emissions by implementing specific steps across their operations and supply chain. The company offsets the emissions that they can’t immediately reduce, and they diligently track progress and offset annually. Company B chooses a ‘show and tell’ strategy. They skip taking stock of their operations and make pronouncements about ad hoc reductions operating as-is. See the difference? The former (Company A) chooses hard work, strategic planning, and efforts to reduce emissions across the supply chain. The latter (Company B) are more motivated by looking good and less motivated to make an actual difference in their emissions. Let’s let that sink in for a minute.”

So, what can you do to avoid greenwashing? Accelerate business transformation by incorporating the principles of the three C’s: commit, calculate, and communicate. Commit to your sustainability goals and map out an action plan that all levels of your business and supply chain can take responsibility for. Calculate how you can reach your sustainability goals and continuously monitor and report on your progress. Communicate the proof that you are implementing sustainable and circular design solutions. Just saying what you will do is not good enough and can harm your company’s reputation.

Want to be part of creating a future our grandkids will be thankful for? At Radicle, we believe there are ways to mitigate being greenwashers. We already discussed the “3 C’s” and the importance of not only telling your compelling story to your end-users but also sharing the actions you’ve taken, backed up by scientific data and hard facts. 

We love a challenge, and we’re committed to solving the complex problem of climate change. Now, more than ever, companies need to identify what’s important to them. If that’s a future grounded in an optimistic reality – we’re ready to walk the talk with you.