Principled Profit: The Good Business Blog

Musings on the world-wide movement for ethical business, frugal marketing, and how honesty, integrity, and quality combine with deep relationship building to create business success. By the originator of the Ethical Business Pledge campaign and award-winning author of Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First and five other books

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Greenwashing Increases the Corporate Credibility Gap

Thoughtful article by Mallen Baker in the UK publication Ethical Corporation, discussing a number of specific companies who’ve been called on the carpet for greenwashing: claiming to be more ecological than they really are.

As one among many examples:

Shell, which said “we use our waste CO2 to grow flowers”, was in breach of the advertising code because the wording could be seen to imply that all the company’s waste CO2 was so used, not just 0.33 per cent of it.

The result of this corporate misfeasance is not surprising. As Baker notes,

According to a recent survey, 80 per cent of Britons now think that companies simply pretend to be ethical in order to sell more products. Widespread cynicism over all the claims has set in, and is hardening with every ill-judged poster or TV ad. Nobody can see an ad with flower petals floating from the exhaust of a motor car and be anything other than cynical.

Oil companies are often making green claims, which I’ve learned to treat with skepticism. Yet I admit to being fooled occasionally. I once profiled BP as the socially responsible company of the month in my Positive Power of Principled Profit newsletter on the basis of its stated policies and actions on environmental responsibility. Later, I found out that BP still has quite its share of environmental problems, even disasters.


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