- Do the homework –Ensure that the green claims of the business, product or service are true and consistent with wider business activities. Example: A large cosmetics company were promoting their fund-raising for breast cancer research, but were attacked by activists for including carcinogenic substances in its products
- Be honest and humble – Nothing is perfect and honesty goes a long way. If the business or company is not 100%, don’t pretend it is. By acknowledging the areas of products or business that are not yet green and show commitment towards addressing some of the concerns, there is a better chance that stakeholders will trust the claims that are made. A small modifying word can often do the trick. Example: Carlsberg’s longstanding “Probably the best beer in the world” – is almost impossible to dispute
- Provide documentation – The information and further/relevant details should be made accessible to the public. Are green claims certified based on established eco-labels, methods or experts? Companies should make it easier for customers to be able to understand and check on green claims being made. Example: M&S have an extensive website documenting and explaining all in-store claims
- Consult stakeholders – Engaging with stakeholders, both internal and external, in a dialogue on green marketing – is invaluable. It shows the company’s good intent, willingness to want to improve and its concern for the views of their stakeholders. This in itself is not only good practice but inherently a good branding opportunity. Companies can take the opportunity to find out if their green claims are acceptable to their staff, suppliers, customers, NGOs and the community and check on whether they are on the right track or seen to be greenwashing. Example: Several alcohol producers now have stakeholder panels who comment on whether their advertisement is ethical
POINT OF CLARIFICATION ON CARBON NEGATIVE ACTIVITY
The phrase carbon negative activity can have many interpretations that I feel needs clarification. Carbon is sequestered in plastic as we all know, but when the plastic is biodegradable, the off gassing of methane (comprised of C02 and Methane) from the biodegradation process is combustible. If this bio-gas is utilized in methane to energy generators, the result is considered a “green” source of energy. However, carbon is still emitted from the process, the benefit is that we used energy from bio-gas instead of using energy from say…coal. Utilizing methane from a landfill is only part of a possible process of creating a carbon negative cycle. There’s a major running debate right now as to the carbon positivity/negativity of landfill biogas generation. The back-to-back papers at the SPC conference last Spring in San Diego by Adam Gendell and Mort Barlaz spoke to two sides of this issue. As more data flows in from many different projects currently underway, we will have a more definitive understanding of how to apply it to carbon life-cycle analysis, in the ultimate goal of realizing carbon negativity!
In the hopefully not so distant future, we will have plastic that has come from renewable sources that are not land-crop depended, but will still utilize carbon available in our atmosphere, to help in the carbon sequestering process. ONLY when carbon is being pulled out of the atmosphere, and less carbon is being put back into it (by engaging activities like methane to energy), can someone be truly carbon negative. Having an ENSO biodegradable plastic is part of the whole picture that is entirely up to progressive sourcing of material, and responsible end of life process.