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Sustainable rhetoric must ring true amid greenwashing evolution

21st February 2020

Amid a flurry of headlines around the troubling evolution of greenwashing, Bureau Veritas is reminding businesses of the importance of being 100% assured that they can fully substantiate any environmental credentials before making them public.

Sustainability is a fragile plant

Unsurprisingly, as sustainability becomes increasingly linked to prosperity, recent years have seen an explosion of businesses coming forward about their environment products and policies in a bid to impress concerned investors and consumer. Yet, a worrying number of firms have failed to match the scale of the public declaration with action; also known as greenwashing.

Recent examples include a fast food giant announcing plans to replace all plastic straws with recyclable paper ones, only for comms to be leaked revealing the ‘greener alternatives’ were, in fact, non-recyclable. In another, a leading clothes brand came under fire by the authorities for launching a clothing range with vaguely sustainable claims, such as ‘every piece is made from a sustainably sourced material’ without any formal validation.

However regulators are taking action, with the Financial Conduct Authority recently promising to challenge firms it deems to be ‘greenwashing’ financial products as it seeks to protect consumers from being misled over the sustainability of businesses where they choose to spend their money.1

David Murray, Technical Director for Sustainability at Bureau Veritas states: “As demonstrated by the recent climate talks in Madrid, the climate change issue is one which is escalating and more in the public domain than ever, meaning both would-be investors and consumers are continuing to shift towards placing their money in more environmentally and ethically responsible companies. As such, it’s now more important than ever for businesses to up the ante when it comes to their sustainable strategy. However, it is incredibly important that a holistic, thorough approach is taken in order to substantiate any credentials before putting them in the public domain.

“Sustainability is, after all, an incredibly complex topic. A business might, for example, create a product out of 100% recycled materials but if the suppliers, manufacturing process and logistics approach aren’t green too it will thwart the overall sustainable validity.”

In a bid to aid the sustainable transition, Bureau Veritas recently launched Circular+; a holistic approach that offers process audit and management system services to help organisations manage both their environmental and social impacts.

Working in this way, businesses can be assured that their sustainable ambitions are realistic, achievable and can be fully validated. Thereon in, Bureau Veritas’ expert team will work with clients to continuously improve their green credentials through regular reviews, recommendations for change and leveraging various supportive standards.

David adds: “In order to ensure a tangible sustainable strategy, the reality is that businesses must go into an incomparable level of granularity; considering the impact of each and every single part of the supply chain. Of course, it does mean significant resource and investment, but it is essential to ensure any sustainable rhetoric rings true, providing greater affinity with consumers and creating cut through.”