2. Dig deeper: carefully examine and find out what services are actually offered by companies
G: “When we come across a sustainability message or advertisement praising a company's green initiatives, a very simple thing we can do is to find out what products or services it offers. A look at its website should explain the type of service offered or products marketed and how much actual sustainability there may be”.
This kind of approach helps us to distinguish between the communication campaigns and the real nature of the companies; we can see more clearly the principles and values underlying their intentions.
3. Zero impact doesn’t exist, especially in industry
G: ““Any action performed by man always has an impact on the environment, even more so in the case of industry. For example, think of the early days when coal was burned without any concern whatsoever. The main thing is that, to have a little less impact, you can choose certain actions rather than others. So we can ask ourselves: what choices have been made? What criteria govern a company’s actions? What are an action’s real consequences on the environment and what are the gains deriving from it?”.
Thinking like this we can, for example, be suspicious of firms who claim to be 100% green: they are clearly hiding something.
4. Sustainability is not only environmental but also social
G: “Sustainability is not just about the environment. There is also an aspect of it that concerns social sustainability, which is equally important. In fact, one of the greatest kinds of damage caused by climate change is social inequality. It is the poorest and most disadvantaged populations that are the first to pay the price for droughts, deforestation, rising temperatures, etc…”.
This line of thought gives us another way in to understanding whether an organisation is truly sustainable. If, for example, a company advertises its commitment to planting trees in the city outskirts, but its employees are not paid fairly and live precariously, then the fact of planting a few trees is greenwashing, plain and simple. It does not represent a genuine ethical commitment to the environment (broadly understood as the social and “biological” network that the firm exists in).
5. A history of commitment to sustainability points to credibility
Another useful clue for navigating the sea of greenwashing is the history of the firm’s commitment to sustainability. The more stable and lasting a company’s commitment to sustainability is, the more likely it is that it is actually a real, keystone value.
G: “Real and lasting commitment over time pays off, also as an economic return. Greenwashing turns out the same way as lies: they offer a return only in the short term but lost their way in the long run. Only the companies that have proven their honesty without cutting corners will have a voice”.