Environmental claims are just so much hot air

2011

The overwhelming majority of consumers in the UK view corporate claims of environmental responsibility as nothing more than spin and 'greenwash', according to new research commissioned by the Carbon Trust.

A mere seven per cent of consumers said that they believe what companies are communicating in regards to climate change responsibilities and actions they are taking to reduce their environmental impacts.

Two thirds of consumers said that they doubt whether companies are genuinely cutting carbon emissions, while six out of 10 said that they would only believe what companies claim if this was backed up by evidence from third-party sources.

Around half of those questioned worried that companies simply make one-off improvements to win publicity, and then just return to business as usual.

"It's clear that 'green washing'; over claiming; and excessive jargon has created mistrust of brands," said the Carbon Trust's Harry Morrison.

"But the good news is that by taking voluntary action now to measure, manage and reduce their impacts, there are huge opportunities for brands to stand out from the crowd."

As the research reveals, for those companies that are able to provide credible evidence of improving their environmental impact, the commercial and reputational opportunities can be considerable.

Almost six out of 10 (56 per cent) of consumers are more loyal to brands that can show, at a glance, evidence of action, while half (53 per cent) want to work for companies that can clearly demonstrate commitment to reducing their impacts.

The survey also found that seven out of 10 people want businesses to mandatorily disclose their carbon emissions and that more than half (56 per cent) are more concerned about business' actions to reduce their impacts on climate change than they were five years ago.

According to brand analysis firm BrandZ, which carried out the survey, there is a distinct correlation between the strongest, most successful performers in its annual 'Top 100 Most Powerful Brands' and those brands that score highly on the categories of corporate reputation, leadership and innovation. Environmental responsibility is one of the top characteristics of leading companies.

"Without even taking into account the role that environmental responsibility has in demonstrating leadership; fairness; and trust--our own research shows that taking action on climate change represents a 2% sales increase or decrease for businesses to play for," said Peter Walshe, Global Director of BrandZ.

"Right now, this is an opportunity. But as awareness rises of the considerable role of business emissions in climate change, I expect an imminent backlash against companies that do not perform or cannot prove their actions are measurable and authentic."

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