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How To Hold Greenwashers Accountable?

October 29th, 2010 by Alison · No Comments · global warming and climate change, sustainability

This guest post offers a refreshing, tech-savvy counterbalance to my usual low-tech approach to sustainability. I agree with author Hunter Richards that we need a system for measurably holding businesses accountable when they claim to be green, eco-friendly, or to be reducing carbon emissions. Hunter blogs at Software Advice.  ____________________________________________________________________________

Greenwash (verb, \ˈgrēn-wȯsh\) - to market a product or service by promoting a deceptive or misleading perception of environmental responsibility.

Companies are launching major ad campaigns to tout their green credentials. But many of their claims don’t provide any solid evidence. So how can we know who’s telling the truth about sustainable products? Greenwashing is eroding the credibility of sustainable products in general and making consumers more cynical of supposedly eco-friendly businesses.

Scrutiny of green business campaigns is similar to the demand to hold corporations accountable for their financial reporting. The U.S. is still a leader in financial accounting (thanks in part to accounting software), but we need to develop the same infrastructure for environmental accounting to prevent greenwashing. Enterprise Carbon Accounting (ECA) software is becoming the foundation of this infrastructure. ECA software enables companies to consistently track the many components of their carbon footprint while identifying opportunities for cost savings and waste reduction. The increased ease of the process means that greenwashers will soon run out of excuses to conceal their dirty carbon footprints.

For environmental accounting adoption to make green business practices replace sneaky marketing, we need action in five main categories:

* Clear government action on regulations - like increased coverage of the EPA’s Mandatory Greenhouse Gas Reporting Rule, which requires companies that emit 25,000 metric tons or more of greenhouse gases annually to disclose emissions information to the EPA;

* Adoption of carbon accounting principles - stricter requirements for disclosure of corporate emissions would provide a method with which to measure a company’s environmental record, giving credit to the honest claims while letting the artificial ones fizzle;

* Expansion of Scope 3 emissions accounting - mandatory inclusion of suppliers’ emissions in environmental reports (Scope 3) would prevent under-reporting of emissions and more quickly spread adoption of carbon accounting throughout the supply chain;

* Better green business incentives - using ECA software to identify eco-friendly savings opportunities can make it cheaper to truly go green and make it unneccessary for businesses to greenwash in the first place;

* Demanding, informed consumers - consumers who demand the numbers from standardized carbon accounting reports, while boycotting companies who bend the truth, effectively force businesses with green marketing campaigns to prove their sincerity. Greenwashers won’t be able to survive any longer unless they truly go green.

To learn more about ECA software and greenwashing prevention, check out Software to Hold “Greenwashers” Accountable. The original article is here.

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