Inspiration, Innovation & Hope: Issue 2
Welcome to our August Newsletter. We hope that you and your loved ones are keeping safe and well. In this issue we seek to provide guidance on avoiding greenwashing and share the inspiring story of how the food sharing app OLIO has helped 1000s of families in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Tips to avoid Greenwashing
Whether you're a green consumer or a green business owner, avoiding Greenwashing is often a top priority. We sought to cut through the jargon and shed some light on the subject this month.
What is it?
Greenwashing is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company's products are more environmentally sound than they actually are.
Greenwashing is considered an unsubstantiated claim to deceive consumers into believing that a company's products are environmentally friendly (Investopedia.com January 2020).
Companies have typically been seen to exaggerate their claims in order to deceive customers and gain business. Advertising a product as ‘containing 50% more recycled content than before’ when the increase has taken the product from 2% to 3% recycled materials, is technically a true statement, but it is a classic example of greenwashing behaviour.
HOW TO AVOID GREENWASHING
1. Set a clear CSR strategy
One of the first things an environmentally conscientious consumer will look for is a ‘Corporate Social Responsibility’ strategy. CSR reports, often published on a company’s website and freely available to the consumer, offer clear insight into a company’s social and environmental priorities.
By setting a clear company goal for various objectives, and by publishing the results of these objectives, you are displaying accountability for your actions and building trust with your consumers and audience.
Choosing to model your sustainability reporting around the Global Reporting Initiative’s (GRI) Sustainability Reporting Framework may be a logical step. The GRI is a reputable, internationally recognised independent organization that pioneered sustainability reporting in 1997. It is used by thousands of businesses as well as governments worldwide, and helps them to understand and communicate their impact on critical sustainability issues such as climate change, human rights, governance, and social well-being.
Additionally, if you're based in the UK, then the UK government sets out the key principles of making an environmental claim here. This is a useful starting place for ensuring you are meeting key legal requirements.
As an aside, from an operational standpoint, many ‘green’ approaches adopted within an organisation, not only save money, but they also serve to add to your credibility from a CSR point of view. Conserving energy and taking your recycling efforts seriously will no doubt have a beneficial effect not only on your company overheads, but also on your brand image, as your customers can see you’re taking your efforts seriously.
2. Be transparent about your product.
If at present, you are only able to source appropriate packaging for your product that is made from 50% recycled plastic, and your goal is to improve this long term, then say so. Customers will value your honesty and transparency. As you build your product offering, by seeking to improve on your sustainability goals and communicating these to your consumers, then your efforts will be rewarded by not only differentiating your offering from that of your competitors, but also by ensuring credibility in an increasingly competitive marketplace.
3. Consistency is key
Once you have decided on your goals and focus, stick to them. By communicating a clear message to your customer, you will build trust and transparency in your messaging. There is no doubt that by building on these solid foundations that this will draw a loyal customer following to help your business grow, with no greenwashing on your behalf.
Food sharing in a pandemic
OLIO is the brainchild of Tessa Clarke and Saasha Celestial (pictured above). The pair launched the company in 2015.
The company seeks to connect neighbours and businesses to share food that would have otherwise gone to waste. The app is free to download and use and surplus food can be requested by those in the local vicinity via the click of a button on the OLIO app.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought huge challenges to the food industry, and here in the UK we have become acutely aware of the effect that panic buying has on our fragile food supply chain. OLIO quickly sought to bring support to those in most need at this difficult time, launching two campaigns. The first, #Cook4Kids drew attention and support from the likes of renowned chefs James Martin and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. The mission was to provide cooked meals for school children now confined to home, who ordinarily would have received free school meals. OLIO members could offer pre-prepared lunches for children in their local community.
The second campaign, #Cook4Carers was created to allow those with the time and facilities to cook and provide meals free of charge for key workers working tirelessly at the frontline in the fight against COVID-19. Both campaigns insisted on strict no-contact collection of prepared meals in line with maintaining social distancing and reducing any potential cross-contamination.
The two initiatives have been hugely successful, and have reflected the company's true values, not only from an environmental standpoint but also from an ethical and humanitarian point of view.
OLIO, since its launch, has already saved in excess of 4.8 million portions of food from going to waste and has over 2 million active users. The company has been forward-thinking and responsive in a time of global crisis and we'd expect it will only continue to grow.