I finally got around to reading the February edition of the ENDS report yesterday and was disappointed, but not surprised, to find four major stories on Greenwashing.
– Two of these (mastic asphalt companies and British Gas) were claiming that their products had no carbon footprint as they were offsetting their carbon emissions. While I (somewhat controversially) believe in offsetting as a CSR strategy, it is very unwise to use it as a claim in this way. In my book, you can say “we offset our carbon emissions”, but not “our products have a zero carbon footprint”. Obviously the Advertising Standards Authority agrees with me.
– Another is a compost company, William Sinclair, putting a ‘cradle to gate’ carbon label on their peat products. This is a bit naughty as peat is a fossil fuel and will decompose in use to produce 5 times as much carbon dioxide as the figure on the label. A bit like saying petrol has a carbon footprint of X as long as you don’t actually use it.
– The last story is about ‘ethical’ investment funds. These have been found to be sort-of ethical in that they avoid certain industries (such as the arms industry) but some only have 1% of their stocks in ‘green’ industries, despite the image they portray.
All of these examples show that green claims are a minefield and that you’re better not doing it at all if you’re not going to do it properly. As my primary school teacher used to say, you’re only cheating yourself, you know…