How to effectively communicate your sustainability efforts

Communicating your sustainability efforts effectively is crucial for maintaining the credibility of your company. Whether you are promoting your eco-friendly initiatives as carbon neutral or using other buzzwords, it is essential to avoid unintentionally misleading your audience. The consequences of so-called, ‘greenwashing’, whether intentional or not, can be costly.

But what exactly is ‘greenwashing’?

Greenwashing is a term used to describe the act of misleadingly presenting yourself as environmentally friendly or sustainable. It encompasses various deceptive practices that create the illusion of being environmentally responsible without taking substantial actions.

In essence, greenwashing occurs when an entity falsely portrays its commitment to the environment, leading consumers to believe that they are making eco-friendly choices when, in reality, they are not. This deceptive tactic is a significant concern as it undermines genuine efforts towards sustainability and misleads consumers who genuinely want to make environmentally conscious decisions.

A study by the European Commission in 2021, found that nearly half (42%) of all environmental claims made are exaggerated, deceptive, or outright false. ‘Greenwashing' has increased as consumers increasingly seek to buy environmentally sound products.

What has changed?

In 2021, the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) declared its intention to investigate environmental assertions made by various product manufacturers to ascertain their compliance with UK consumer protection legislation.

Subsequently, in 2023, the European Union (EU) introduced a new directive known as the Green Claims Directive, which aims to establish specific criteria that companies must meet to make environmental claims about their products.

Which companies are impacted?

All companies that operate within the EU market and make any form of environmental claim, regardless of its magnitude, will be affected.

The EU mandates that each member country penalise companies that make false environmental claims. These penalties are intended to be severe enough to deter companies from benefiting from their deceptive practices. The fines imposed can amount to as much as 4% of the company's annual income.

Additionally, regulators in the UK are increasingly acting against greenwashing. Legal measures and fines are becoming more prevalent to ensure that companies align their claims with actual environmental practices.

What can you do as a manufacturer wanting to do the right thing?

Made in Britain has organised several sessions on how to effectively communicate your sustainability efforts without falling foul of UK & EU regulations, which you can replay in the Members' Area of our website (Made in Britain login required).

You can also:

• Avoid using buzzword terms: 'Green', 'Carbon Neutral', and 'Eco-friendly' may attract attention and create a positive perception, but they lack substance and specific details.

• Eliminate unnecessary fluff: Resist the temptation to exaggerate your efforts. Keep your messaging clear and honest.

• Refer to quantifiable data: Use measurements you know are true to back up your claims.

• Be direct and transparent: Transparency is key. Your claims should be authentic and communicated in a straightforward way.

This feature article is a recent addition by Made in Britain and will cover various topics, including manufacturing-specific subjects. If you have any specific topics you would like us to address in the future or would like a reminder of your Made in Britain login for the Members’ Area, please contact our membership team.

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