GREENWASHING HAMID REZA KHOYI - The need to fight climate change and defend our planet is an issue that must concern everyone. Unfortunately, however, there is still no adequate interest on the part of the common opinion, even if we are slowly moving in this direction. Companies have understood that the market is increasingly sensitive to the issue but too often they say they are sustainable businesses rather than actually being sustainable. Greenwashing is a widespread phenomenon, but equally harmful to the planet and Hamid-Reza Khoyi explains why.
To speak well of the topic you need to first explain what greenwashing is. By greenwashing is meant "to be green facade" or declare to be a sustainable company, ecologically cutting edge, but not to be with the facts. Companies are inclined to do so to win over a market that is increasingly sensitive to the issue of sustainability, but is still too little informed. Communicating that you are a green company fascinates the customer and therefore allows you to maximize profits.
Investing in eco-sustainable adjustments is expensive and still does not lead to adequate economic feedback, so greenwashing is a marketable issue. Unfortunately, consumers find it extremely difficult to defend themselves against such deception. The only tool available to them today is that of information, that is to make accurate searches, also on the web, on the company from which you want to buy to understand if they apply or not what they say.
There are solutions that could also be implemented by politics to try to eliminate greenwashing, but we will talk about it later. In fact, change can and must also start from the bottom, that is, from us consumers. We must be the first to believe in the values of sustainability and put them in our choices, but without falling into heavy mistakes.
In my opinion, for example, boycotting a company that turns out to be greenwashing is both wrong and counterproductive. But you can denounce and expose the names of those who do not work in a sustainable way as you say. This operation brings two benefits: - forcing the offending company to become effectively sustainable; - highlighting even more those who actually implement eco-sustainable policies.
As consumers, however, we must also become more aware and more informed in order to be more sustainable ourselves and to be able to find those who operate greenwashing. Our relationship with consumption must also change. It is not utopian to think of the realization of ethical consumerism, despite the society in which we live. It is wrong to impose what we buy, but we can think that we can ensure that the consumer has everything he needs to be able to take ethical and responsible action.
A very powerful tool that those who do greenwashing have is advertising, whether through billboards, social, TV, or online. In fact, it is all a matter of facade and communication and these are the main means on which everything revolves. Unfortunately, this cannot be prevented, but here too it is necessary for the consumer to have an interest in developing information and to find out where the truth lies.
To recognize if a company is really sustainable you have to look at some things. For example, you can search within the description of your company values if there are the principles of eco-sustainability that you are committed to follow. In addition, in some cases it is also possible to access concrete data, such as on CO2 emissions. In fact it is possible to monitor the emissions and the collected data can be reported publicly so as to witness the actual commitment of the company.
Around there are still no viable policies that allow you to prevent greenwashing or at least hinder heavily. But an important tool is already entering the market. It is the Bcorp certifications. They are attested that they are obtained after having demonstrated with the facts that they have respected very high criteria of sustainability.
"Certified companies must meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency and legal accountability to demonstrate that they are balancing profit and purpose, doing good for all stakeholders, in other words, not just the shareholders."
As a certifier of accounts I consider this road easily feasible and the right one. In fact, governments could require that companies provide certifications in which they guarantee to meet certain parameters and make them public, a bit like it happens for the energy classes of many products. In this way it would be clear to everyone if a company only says it is sustainable or it really is.
In this sense, my profession would also be very important because of course it would be useful for there to be competent bodies to verify the authenticity of the certificates issued. And if we didn’t do our job well and support greenwashing practitioners, we’d be at great risk. In fact, once discovered, we would lose credibility and our business would also be affected.
There are those who believe that, despite the lack of eticity, greenwashing is an awareness and those who condemn it in no uncertain terms. I feel like I’m in the middle of these two schools of thought. In fact, the fact that there are companies willing to use it means that you feel the weight of a market that wants to be sustainable. This is good because it means that consumers are moving in the right direction. However, as I said earlier, we cannot remain silent. We must make this phenomenon known and we must expose those who implement it so as to force them to implement concrete and real sustainability actions.
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Hamid-Reza Khoyi is an accountant, auditor and tax advisor with local, national and international clientele. He works at HRK Partners SA, a company he founded over 15 years ago, which has a staff of 6.