Greenwashing should be on the mind of anyone interested in how companies create and implement programs to become more sustainable. As the trend of environmental concern continues to rise, so are companies efforts and recognition of such concerns. These are not always effective and useful measures. Some of these measures can be easily manipulated and presented in a deceptive way to seem as if real effort is being made when the case is more contradictory. Oxford Dictionary defines Greenwashing as: “Disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.”(Oxford Dictionary). Hopefully we can begin to see the clash of interests. It costs real money to implement these programs. This is money that could be spent on other projects. This creates an incentive for managers to present their company in a green light so as to gain the positive PR but not so much as to take away from the normal business operations. It can be hard to strike a balance and when doing so many companies merely display numbers than provide meaningful information to stakeholders. This conflict of interest should be considered and scrutinized when examining any company as there can be a real difference between actual efforts and figurative numbers.
The Global Reporting Initiative!
GRI to the rescue! GRI is a group who has set sustainable reporting standards since the early 1980’s (GRI). As the attention shifted towards companies taking green initiatives, so did the need for reporting. The problem isn’t with reporting numbers but how the numbers are calculated and presented. Since we are dealing with companies of all industries (concerning green efforts) the need for comparability and transparency became paramount. This allows for less greenwashing as efforts could be matched and compared to others in order to give some idea of how much impact was really created. GRI has created a set of standards and reporting procedures that allow companies to create reports and information that accurately reflect the company’s efforts. These resources can be found at the GRI website for download here.
Big Beer and Bigger Reporting: Miller Coors
Miller Coors is one of the most recognizable names in the beer industry not only for Colorado but the U.S. as well. Miller Coors has grown from a small brewery to producing and distributing vast amounts of beer throughout the world. With their expansion the need for generating a positive impact on the world around them has become increasingly present. Miller Coors has take many initiatives to help give back to the environment and protect what they use. With these initiatives we should immediately be concerned with whether such efforts are serious or merely numbers on a page. Thankfully Miller Coors has opted to follow the GRI reporting standards and issues an annual, Sustainability Report, highlighting such efforts. In their findings Miller Coors recognizes the need for comparability and materiality (MillerCoors). In their recognition, Miller Coors highlights its results compared to their goals and gives useful metrics that allow for comparability among the beer industry. This should be standard for any company in the beer industry. As beer requires many finite resources and has the potential for creating a large harmful impact, so should beer require the steps to correct and protect such measures. Companies can seek guidance not only from the GRI but from companies within the industry by comparing and implementing similar useful programs.
Thats a Wrap:
We want our readers to be alerted anytime numbers are thrown on a page. Numbers are numbers and only give value when their is meaning behind them. It can be hard to tell when numbers are more than what they seem (concerning greenwashing) but using guides such as the GRI we can begin to separate the men from the boys, so to speak. The GRI is only a start and does help create comparability and materiality. Still we must stress that numbers can be deceptive and serious research should be done concerning how these initiatives are actually implemented and whether there is a large follow through. Hopefully this has helped develop some idea of what greenwashing is and how companies can skirt around serious issues or deal with them in tremendous ways.