“Greenwashing” is described by Wikipedia as the practice of companies disingenuously spinning their products and policies as environmentally friendly.
As companies respond to the biggest challenge facing our generation, climate change and how to sustain our precious planet, it is perhaps inevitable that marketeers may over egg the pudding and make claims that don’t always stand up to independent scrutiny. This is why external verification is so important.
It was great therefore to see the recent report from the consultancy Carbon Smart
, ‘Just off the Starting Blocks – Benchmarking Sustainability and Carbon Assurance in the FTSE350’, which calls for independent verification and a consistent set of assurance standards. The report highlights that only 75 companies – few than 25% of the FTSE350 – publish some form of assurance to verify or back-up the sustainability data they publish.
As Ben Murray, Managing Director of Carbon Smart, says: “It is staggering that companies think they can carry on like this. Investors would not accept a report which had not been audited”. However the report also highlights some excellent examples of best practice, namely BG Group, Kingfisher and Reed Elsevier who all score highly on sustainability assurance, whilst Amlin, BSkyB and HSBC are also highlighted for their effective assurance of carbon emissions.
This issue of independent verification is very close to my heart and when setting Green Rewards up it was crystal clear to me that our programme of green and ethical rewards, which aims to bring together the very best in sustainable products, experiences and services, had to be independently vetted. That is why we have a Sustainability Advisory Panel, made up of some of the UK’s leading experts covering carbon, waste, farming, ethical fashion, etc, and I am proud that every single reward offered in our programme has been assessed and approved by this independent Panel.