Insight

Navigating sustainability initiatives in an era of greenwashing

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Businesses are increasingly recognising the importance of sustainable practices to safeguard our planet for future generations. However, as the demand for sustainable products and services grow, so does the prevalence of greenwashing – a deceptive practice where businesses falsely claim to be environmentally friendly.
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Businesses found guilty of greenwashing can face legal repercussions including investigations undertaken by the ACCC, compromised integrity and reputation, loss of customer trust and severe financial penalties.

Businesses must take a genuine and transparent approach to their sustainability initiatives to allow customers to discern genuine efforts from greenwashing. With the above in mind, what are the key factors to consider when approaching ESG and sustainability in an organisation?

Authenticity

The key underlying factor to consider is creating authentic sustainability initiatives. Businesses should dedicate time to identifying their sustainability priorities and develop aligning initiatives. Understanding the core values of the business as a whole and how these values intersect with sustainability is key. To ensure this intersection is successful, key decision makers must have a deep understanding of the concept of sustainability. An authentic approach to sustainability initiatives provides clarity by allowing customers and key stakeholders to understand the rationale behind a business’s initiatives and appropriately fosters trust.

Transparency

Sustainability initiatives are not an overnight success, it takes time to rectify past errors and transition business processes toward more sustainable options. Businesses should continuously evaluate their sustainability initiatives against key metrics to transparently share their current statistics and show improvements as they continue their sustainability journey. For this reason, businesses need to allocate resources to the required data collection and related analysis. The resulting metrics should be accurately communicated to customers. Ensuring this data is appropriately presented and easily accessible is crucial for building trust.

Processes and procedures

Sustainability reporting guidelines will soon become a regulatory requirement. With the immediate focus being on climate related disclosures. A good measure for consideration is setting up business processes and reporting frameworks to meet the regulatory requirements regardless of the timing of when your business will be required to report, if at all.  Whilst setting up these systems and initiatives may require initial effort, a commitment to being informed about sustainability reporting requirements is demonstrated. Once the systems and initiatives are in place, there is a clear level of confidence and trust in the business’s sustainability reporting.

We’re here to help

Though the path to creating quality sustainability initiatives can be daunting especially to new businesses, using the above steps will assist mitigating the risk of greenwashing. Our ESG and sustainability advisory specialists offer a tailored approach to building and reviewing your businesses ESG and sustainability initiatives. Many of our frameworks are built to be adaptable, taking into consideration your businesses needs and current position. This tailored approach is critical because ESG is relevant to all businesses – regardless of their size.

If you are ready to discuss your business’s sustainability strategies, please reach out to Michaela Pogson or another member of our ESG & Sustainability team.

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