PR: Brands beware- there's a website outing false green claims

greenwashing_jennifer-l_fli
Here at Smoking Gun PR we like to think our staff do many things well. From copywriting to social media management and representation, campaign evaluation to reach measurement. And amongst these assets is a keen understanding of how brands should market themselves in terms of ethics- whether that’s within the context of environmental impact or maintaining a happy workforce.
Corporate social responsibility is a phrase regular visitors to this blog will be only too familiar with. Over the years we have run several pieces on the subject of companies looking to put something back in to society, and how they should convey those goals to the public and press. These include CSR: Save the Earth and money, and Starbucks and Corporate Social Responsibility, amongst others.
During this time we’ve made two things clear to all in earshot:
*Never launch a CSR campaign without being able to back up your claims
*Never make claims on an issue which, behind the scenes, your company is actually having a hugely detrimental impact on
It seems logical, but transparency, or the lack thereof, can be the undoing of a successful business, and this often happens faster than you can say ‘wait a minute, aren’t they also doing X,Y and Z- that’s a bit hypocritical’.
The point being that irrespective of the industry, all firms should take their responsibility to help improve the world- either on a macro or micro level- very seriously, because we all know the world needs improving. In short, these kind of ideas should not simply be a smokescreen, or marketing ploy to win over more customers; when done correctly they will achieve the latter by default.
Well, it seems that we’re not alone in our view that the truth will always out, as The Greenwashing Index proves. Put simply, this is a website designed to expose the realities behind environmental claims made by companies. Like whitewashing, but in terms of the green movement.
Here’s how it works.
Members of the website can upload information on any advertising, marketing or public relations campaign, and highlight the details of the green claims made therein, including their own opinions and questions pertaining to those statements. The post is then put to a member vote, and is ranked in terms of how believable or legitimate people perceive the campaign to be. The lower the rank, the more believable the company is seen.
 
Brands that have been failing on the greenwashing test include:
EDF- Green Britain; not only does the campaign position EDF as a British company, it also makes claims that the utility giant is environmentally friendly, when this isn’t necessarily the case. Complaints have also been aimed at the use of a green Union Jack flag, originally employed by the 100% green energy provider, Ecotricity.
Rating– 4.6
 
7UP; The campaign alludes to 7UP, a well known fizzy drinks brand, being natural. One look at the ingredients proves this is far from the truth.
Rating– 4.9
 
Ecopetrol; Colombia’s biggest oil company has begun trying to convince the world that it is producing ‘Clean Barrels’, whereby the production of its oil is in harmony with nature and environmentally sustainable. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that this is a little off the mark.
Rating– 4.7
 
Now, here are some of the brands winning favour through the website: 
Mars. Inc; The chocolate giant has made some big claims, but backed them up with real targets, including reducing CO2 output to 0 within a generation, and sourcing 100% of its cocoa, palm oil, tea and fish from certified sustainable sources.
Rating- 2
 
Green Mountain Energy; With statements including the avoidance of an additional 530,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide emissions, and being 100% focused on wind and solar energy, people seem to be siding with this U.S. utility provider.
Rating– 1.5
 
Eco Bag; Although there have been criticisms regarding the advertisement of this particular plastic bag alternative- it’s marketed as trendy and essential, rather than practical but unnecessary if you take your own backpack to the shops- on the whole people agree with the need to reduce waste packaging and carriers, which is logical.
Rating- 1.3
 
Cast your own votes by visiting the website at http://www.greenwashingindex.com