Published On: July 21, 2021Categories: Business Sustainability, Sustainability Resources

5 Problems with “Green” Businesses

It’s been so wonderful to see all of these eco-friendlier alternative products, services and inventions in recent years. It’s trendy right now, but I believe that it’s here to stay.

I’m sure you’ve seen your favourite go-to brands or larger corporations creating their line of green products. Unfortunately because of this trend, there’s been a lot of issues that you may or may not be aware of…

Greenwashing to be exact.

Companies are marketing and saying that their products are “green” but aren’t actually changing their operations, practices or policies.

1. Fake Eco-Labels

In fact, they’re creating their own eco-friendly labelling like “our new green line” and it’s meant to look like some sort of third-party certification. If you do a quick Google search, no such certification exists.

One reliable certification that covers overall environmental and social standards is Certified B Corp.

Otherwise there are a few industry specific certifications like the Forest Stewardship Council for paper products or LEED Certified for energy efficiency for buildings.

Group of women planting tree saplings

2. Tree Planting

While online shopping or checking out a new company, do you ever see on their website “for every purchase we’re planting 1 tree?” Many times (not always) these businesses have the best of intentions. They want to do something that’s in line with their values and take action against climate change. The problem is that these third-party companies that they’ve partnered up with, the ones who are actually doing the tree planting aren’t reaaalllly doing it — at least not in the way you think of.

Some simply drop seeds from a helicopter over a piece of land and count each seed as “a tree.” *rolls eyes…

If you’ve ever tried to grow anything from seed, you know that not all seeds turn into seedlings or even make it past that point without some tender loving care.

Others will plant trees that aren’t even native to that area and often harming the local ecosystems.

So go ahead, click on that third-party tree planting organization and search their website, ask them questions. You want to make sure it’s clear that they’re planting local tree species and getting the local community involved in tending to the growth of these saplings.

Wind farm in the water

3. Carbon Offsetting & Carbon Neutral

Then we have companies that purchase carbon offset credits to become carbon neutral which are fancy words that mean: if you’re polluting emissions into the atmosphere with your business or personal practices, you can basically “subtract” them by purchasing carbon offset credits to reduce emissions via other projects like wind farms and solar panels (Suzuki, 2021).

So in a sense, you’re able to “balance” out your emissions by contributing to eco-friendly projects like wind farms but they’re NOT actually changing how they conduct business and certainly aren’t reducing their environmental impact.

While it may be a great interim step, it doesn’t push corporations to change their business practices, nor does it incentivize them to reduce their emissions and impact.

Personally, carbon offsetting is great as a last resort — for example, offsetting a flight that you had no choice in taking.

4. Waste Management Partnerships

As of late, I’ve seen many large companies establish partnerships with waste management companies like TerraCycle. And although I love that TerraCycle is able to recycle items that aren’t normally recycled like disposable razors and pens.

That being said, it’s similar to carbon offsetting where it gives a business something to market, but they’re still continuing with business as usual. Only the disposal part of the product life cycle has changed, nothing else along their supply chain.

5. Charitable Donations

Finally the “easy” route that many businesses both small and large are doing is donating a portion of their profits to charitable causes. It’s lovely to see organizations like 1% for the planet and companies having to share their books with 1% for the Planet, to PROVE that they are in fact donating 1% of their profits to a charitable organization.

Again, it’s an easy way to market to consumers that your business is “doing good” by supporting all these non-profit organizations. But, incremental actions could be made to be considered “green.”

Genuine care for the planet and doing good for its people and ecosystems, then as a business it looks like doing more than just writing a cheque each year.

Just Remember…

Remember that fake eco-labels are just a marketing ploy. Tree planting, carbon offsetting, waste management partnerships and donations are not inherently bad. You just need to be mindful of what businesses are actually doing and WHO they’re partnering up with. Are they only doing one of these items or are they planting trees AND finding greener solutions to their supply chain?

It can be difficult to decipher whether organizations are really “green” and if you’re a business owner looking to take concrete action towards being eco-friendlier, then let’s chat! We can help you co-create a plan or maybe you just need to pick our brains during a strategy session.

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