It is always hard to keep your finger on the pulse of what is current when it comes to what is the “best thing to do” for the environment. There are many companies trying to trick us into believing that their new ‘bio’ alternatives have solved the supply chain problem for recycling and their products are super green, eco-friendly and biodegradable in the environment. In fact, they have further complicated recycling streams and added more layers of complexity in solving the plastic waste dilemma.
These companies continuously remind us on social media or through adverts about their “sustainability” initiatives about how much less carbon emissions they are using with their new and improved packaging, with very little supporting evidence to verify their claims.
Greenwashing is a tool used by corporates to elude consumers to buy alternative “green” products in a quest to maintain or expand profits. Typically, being a socially responsible company means making drastic changes in your processes which most likely will impact your profitability in the short term. Greenwashing gives companies a means to delay this process, so that they can maintain profits as much as possible yet create the impression to consumers that they are in fact serious about climate change.
At Plastic Bubbles, we always aim to be transparent with our clients about what it is we do here and how hard we work in playing our role in a circular economy. We don’t claim to have found a solution without verifying that the outcomes are indeed beneficial to the environment.
Let’s dive further into greenwashing and learn how to spot the real deal from the phonies.
How Greenwashing came about and why companies and economies Greenwash
In 1970’s, governments from around the world pushed for environmental preservation and wellbeing. Milton Friedman, an American economist and statistician, from the University of Chicago believed the newfound interest in the environment was bad for business. He wrote in The Times, “The social responsibility of business is to increase profits.” He believed regulations slowed down the progress of business. Profit above all else.
So, he pushed for companies to clean their image up and promote “Go Green” initiatives while still somewhat avoiding corporate responsibility. They pushed towards using it to boost sales. Greenwashing gives people the false sense of security. If we, as consumers, believe corporates are really working for the greater good of our environment, we will sit back and allow them to do their work without digging deeper into what they are actually up to.
According to the Cambridge dictionary, “greenwashing” is an attempt to make people believe that your company is doing more to protect the environment than it is.
Therefore, greenwashing aids in masking the potential destruction corporates and politicians are imposing on the environment by misdirecting consumers. Donating funds, clean up campaigns and advertising their initiatives are smoke screens. Often, the money put into advertising these campaigns costs more than implementing actual responsible business practices.
With these greenwashing tactics, big corporates rewrite the narrative, with cheeky advertising campaigns trying to convince consumers that we can buy our way out of climate change without fundamentally having to change our behaviour.
How to check between real and false claims
Taking time to spot false information is exactly what it claims to be, time taking! It takes research and a lot of it to spot the difference.
We found an article that dives into the “Seven Sins of Greenwashing”, established by TerraChoice. This study on environmental claims helps consumers to detect greenwashing. We have highlighted the 7 sins below,
- Sin of the hidden trade-off
- Sin of no proof
- Sin of vagueness
- Sin of worshiping false labels
- Sin of irrelevance
- Sin of lesser of two evils
- Sin of fibbing
The fallacy of increased prosperity means increased carbon emissions.
Starting in the middle of the 19th century when countries industrialised, their emissions spiralled, too. Britain for example after the first world war, national income per person more than doubled whilst its carbon emissions increased four-fold.
As politicians gathered in Egypt this year at COP27, to review progress on climate change, there was at least one cause for optimism: the historic link between rising prosperity and carbon emissions has been broken. This decoupling has been achieved by a change in the relationship between economic growth and energy.
33 countries have in recent years cut emissions while maintaining growth. Around three-fifths are European. But the group also includes America, where emissions fell by 15% between 2007 and 2019 even as GDP per person rose by 23%, as well as others that have joined more recently. These include Australia, where emissions have fallen by 9% since peaking in 2012, and Israel, where they have fallen by 12% in the same period, even as both economies have grown.
What is the real solution to greenwashing? – Transparency and Honesty
To create sustainable organisations and economies where materials and goods are crafted and aimed to protect the environment, we must end greenwashing. This is a multi-decade process, but this crisis needs to end sooner rather than later.
In her opening letter on November 8th at the annual climate summit, Ms McKenna, UN Secretary General, set the tone: “It’s time to draw a red line around greenwashing.”
Many companies are making bold promises to reduce their emissions of greenhouse gases to zero. According to Accenture, of those however, 93% have no chance of achieving their targets. Few businesses lay out credible investment plans or specify milestones against which progress can be judged.
To curb such “dishonest climate accounting”, the UN urges companies to make public disclosures of their progress towards decarbonisation using verified and comparable data. It implores regulators to make these disclosures mandatory.
Effective climate actions mean changing the standard. Forcing corporate transparency through audits and using regulating bodies to enforce regulation. We need to start holding companies liable and allowing their actions to speak louder than their words.
What are we doing at Plastic Bubbles to ensure we not just surfing the “green-sustainable wave”
Plastic Bubbles belongs to Plastics SA and Polyco. As producers of Plastic, we follow Extended Producer Responsibility Regulations. Declarations are done and submitted monthly. We also pay monthly fees on our plastic output to do our part in the circular economy.
Responsible sourcing is also top priority. We require our suppliers to be compliant with the necessary regulations, so we don’t drop the ball when sourcing our raw materials.
Our transparency means honesty and integrity in all communications about how we do business. All our choices are purposeful and we always consider the impact of our products in all aspects of its life span.
For a true partner in plastic, trust Plastic Bubbles.