Sue Burnell

Businesses which over-state their eco credentials leave themselves open to accusations of “greenwashing”, according to a West Midlands-based sustainability consultant.

Coca-Cola, Danone and Nestlé have all been accused of greenwashing in recent months after claiming that their plastic bottles are “100 per cent recycled”, despite knowing that the lids are not recycled.

Sue Burnell, from Business Net Zero, said: “It’s no good businesses just talking the talk when it comes to their efforts to be more environmentally conscious.

“They need to walk the walk as well. If you make claims that aren’t true you will get found out, and that is likely to be hugely damaging to your perceived integrity and, ultimately, your brand.

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“Your road to net zero should be taken one step at a time. You won’t be able to achieve it in one go, so there is no need to pretend that you are further on than you are. Be honest about what you have achieved so far and what further steps you have planned – your customers will think far more of your genuine efforts to do better than a glossy unrealistic claim that will fall apart under scrutiny.”

Sue said it was important to break the sustainability journey down into manageable chunks, and advised seeking expert help to plan the transformation.

She said: “Very few businesses are in a position to claim that they are at net zero already, and it can seem an unachievable goal when you first start the process.

“It’s important to take small steps to achieve results. Effective planning, a well thought out strategy and making sure all your employees are on board with what you are trying to achieve will all stand you in good stead.

“We’ve seen organisations get so anxious about green washing that they’ve resorted to “green hushing” instead – but hiding your sustainability targets and successes is likely to backfire, as it will make you look inauthentic and less than honest.

“Talking to a sustainability expert right at the start of the process can make sure you don’t waste time on projects that are doomed to fail, or become so overwhelmed by the size of the task that you quit before you’ve properly started.”

Sue said sitting down with a sustainability consultant could help businesses identify the small, manageable steps which could add up to a significant improvement in eco credentials, such as securing employee buy-in, reducing waste, and “cleaning up” the supply chain.

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