Changing The Conversation Around Greenwashing

By Robyn Foyster Robyn Foyster has been verified by Muck Rack's editorial team
on 24 July 2023

Changing the conversation around greenwashing – how technology can help businesses and consumers prioritise environmental sustainability. Report by Kiarne Treacy, Founder and CEO at Sustainable Choice Group.

It’s clear that environmental sustainability is increasingly important to Australians. Now more than ever, people want to see leadership from those with the greatest influence and ability to effect true change – governments, global organisations and large businesses. We know consumers are trying to make their purchases from companies with the lowest possible environmental impact and that demand is driving change. There’s a massive focus on sustainability for businesses in 2023 and I’m pleased to see companies making real progress in working towards environmental sustainability. 

But issues are arising from how companies are communicating what actions they are taking. Their marketing is leaving consumers confused, and in some cases, totally misled about their environmental efforts. A recent survey by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) found that 57 per cent of the 247 businesses it looked at were ‘greenwashing’ – making potentially misleading environmental claims. Some businesses were found to be making broad claims that they were ‘eco-friendly’, ‘green’, and ‘sustainable’ but had no information available to prove it, and others were actively using sneaky tactics to deceive. Businesses being misleading about their actions is not only unfair on consumers, but also on the businesses who are doing the right thing.

What’s incredibly important to note is that greenwashing is not always deliberate, and in my experience, it rarely is. Greenwashing is often the result of outdated data, poor processes and lack of appropriate expertise within organisations. As a marketer, brand strategist and media buyer by trade, I’m all too familiar with the fine line between communicating about sustainability and overrepresenting a business’s environmental action, which is why I started Sustainable Choice Group in the first place. 

I went looking for an aggregator site that documented companies’ environmental actions and goals and I couldn’t find one. So, I built – a web platform for businesses to maintain a public record of their social and environmental actions, commitments and impact with supportive evidence. Our self-reporting tool guides businesses to accurately represent their sustainability claims, and empowers consumers to make informed choices about the products and services they buy.

Simplicity is at the heart of everything we do. Our platform is designed to be easy to join, easy to update and to use because we want to encourage the conversation around sustainability. We are committed to effecting radical sustainable change in mass market consumption – enabling the conversation is the first step towards that.

The ACCC released draft guidance on how businesses can avoid greenwashing earlier this month, and it was about time. It reinforces the need for a platform like ours that enables businesses, large and small, to self-report on sustainability progress and substantiate their environmental claims with detailed information, documentation and third-party certifications. The guidance also highlights the importance of accessibility for consumers. It’s not good enough to just have the information ‘somewhere’, it needs to be easy to find and easy to understand, with readily available evidence for those who want to see it. is designed to do exactly that, at the touch of a button. Ours is the only customer-facing destination where a brand of any size, in any industry or location can publish their sustainability credentials in a predictable, like-for-like format.

When it comes to compliance and enforcement around greenwashing, however, I think we need a collaborative approach. Rather than relying on infringements and penalties for breaches, we should start by notifying businesses that they are at risk of greenwashing, for example if they lack public data or if the language they are using is vague. Providing actionable advice, resources and support will get us much further than fines and reprimands. The antidote to greenwashing is not to silence businesses or make accusations. The answer is education, support, a healthy amount of regulatory pressure and some consistent guidelines that consumers can get around.  While we will never accept greenwashing, we also don’t want businesses to stay quiet about their sustainability progress out of fear or confusion. That is why having a digital destination for sustainability information makes sense. Many organisations are investing a lot of time, money, resources into making progress, but don’t know how or where to talk about it. That’s why I am dedicated to building a tech tool that can truly make a difference. If we can create a healthy dialogue about sustainability and give consumers confidence that they can trust what brands tell them, we can start to radically impact change. 

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