“You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.” - C.G. Jung
Many people are concerned with whether sustainable entrepreneurs and organizations are keeping their word, and are in fact turning good intentions and appealing promises into real practices.
This is commonly known as ‘walking the talk’ and reflects the integrity of an organization or startup. It contributes to building its image as a reliable organization in the public’s eyes.
Ensure your startup/project isn't damaging customers' trust by greenwashing – making false claims that your company or products are environmentally friendly.
Greenwashing happens when an organization spends more time and money on marketing itself as environmentally friendly than on actually minimizing its environmental impact. It’s a deceitful marketing gimmick intended to mislead consumers who prefer to buy goods and services from environmentally conscious brands.
Whilst some greenwashing is unintentional and results from a lack of knowledge about what sustainability truly is, it is often intentionally carried out through a wide range of marketing and PR efforts. But the common denominator among all greenwashing is that it is not only misleading, but it’s also really not helping to further sustainable design or circular economy initiatives.
Thus, environmental problems stay the same or more likely, get even worse, as greenwashing often sucks up airtime and misdirects well-intentioned consumers down the wrong path.
The best way to prevent greenwashing in your business is to foster transparency, especially when it comes to the environmental benefits of your products or services. This means taking honest steps toward operating more sustainably, setting actionable goals, tracking your progress, and producing verifiable reports.
Business News Daily gives these recommendations for avoiding greenwashing:
- Fluffy language: Don’t throw around words or terms with no clear meaning (e.g., “eco-friendly” or “natural”).
- Green products vs. dirty company: Watch out for hypocrisies, such as efficient light bulbs made in a factory that pollutes rivers.
- Evocative pictures: Don’t use branding images that give an unjustified green impression (e.g., flowers blooming from exhaust pipes).
- Designations that are just not credible: Look out for obvious attempts to “green” a dangerous product to make it seem safe. (Eco-friendly cigarettes, anyone?)
- Imaginary friends: Don’t use a label that looks like a third-party endorsement but is actually made up.
- Outright lies: Never use fabricated claims or data.
What can you do to promote action
There are various accessible and cost-effective measures your startup can take to reduce your carbon footprint and affect your environmental impact.
A socially sustainable company aims to cultivate diversity, quality of life, equity, and leadership. Examples of social sustainability might include: a company-sponsored education fund, daycare program, team-building retreat, or healthcare initiative.
Here are ten examples of sustainable initiatives you can implement to encourage an environmentally conscious workplace for you and your team.
Implement a recycling program
One standard way of supporting mindfulness around sustainability is to establish a recycling program within your office. From the kitchen area to your workspaces, provide education on responsible waste disposal through clear signage on designated waste stations to help your people distinguish between what items belong in recycling, compost, and in the trash bin. You can also look into the safe removal and donation of old computer parts and other items unnecessarily taking up space in your workplace.
Preserve energy within the office
Turning off the lights and switching off electronic equipment around the office during off-hours will help to conserve energy resources as well as save your company a significant amount on your electric bill. Provide suggestions such as shutting off their computers at the end of the work day and keeping the lights off when a meeting room is not in use.
Promote a paperless office
Digital and cloud computing solutions have enabled companies to become more collaborative, streamlined, efficient, and yes, green too. Look for an eco-conservative alternative.
Support green vendors
D business with green-friendly brands and companies to create a more environmentally conscious workplace.
Reduce by reusing
Do not use disposable coffee cups. Encourage the use of reusable coffee mugs, along with reusable water bottles.
Invest in office plants
Placing plants around the office can help to beautify your workspaces, uplift the overall atmosphere of your workplace, and reduce stress and anxiety for your workforce.
Conserve human energy
The wellbeing of your team is crucial to the healthy habits of your organization. Mindfulness is just as important. Consider that sustaining healthy and energetic employees will be beneficial to your company’s overall productivity..
Encourage sustainable transportation
Support your team members in taking alternative modes of transportation to and from the office—such as walking or carpooling—during the work week.
Get out there and volunteer
Cause-driven volunteer programs are an excellent way to support something meaningful and have a big impact on your communities..
Make green thinking a key part of your company culture
Talk to and collaborate with your team members to gather their ideas for how your organization can go green and be more environmentally conscious in the workplace.