Introduction:

Follow our BSR Greenwash Prevention Checklist to access whether you are communicating your environmental efforts honestly and effectively.

Greenwash is:

"disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image." - Lexico, Greenwash Definition

According to a 2009 Edelman study, looking at more than 20 countries, global trust in business is low and decreasing. For instance, trust in business advertisements is down from 30% to 13%.

Greenwashing is a marketing tactic and a contributor to this declined trust. Consumers are becoming all too wary of false claims. No one likes to be deceived, and to deceive is unethical. But greenwash is more than a question of ethics. Greenwash is dangerous.

How?

Greenwash covers up questionable practices, making it difficult to hold perpetrators of environmental damage accountable. In our current ecological crisis, this will impact us all at some point down the line.

This checklist has been designed from the guidelines set by Business for Social Responsibility (BSR). Each step guides you through the evaluation of our own marketing activities ensuring they are inline, honest and accurate to your environmental efforts.

As a disclosure, it must be noted that this checklist will not guarantee greenwash prevention, merely it will set key benchmarks to help you prevent greenwash in your business.

How to use this checklist

At the beginning of this checklist, you will be presented with a set of specialized questions. Each question is split into 3 target areas:

  1. Impact
  2. Alignment
  3. Communication

The questions require simple yes and no responses. You are presented with a drop-down menu to select your response. Using our long-text form field, you can add notes for each response if further information/response detail is needed. All notes will be compiled into your final report.

At the end of this checklist, you will be presented with a final report. This report will detail all of your responses. Your final review is then sent for review to your supervisor.

On review, your supervisor will decide whether to reject the initiative as greenwash or accept the initiative using Process Street's approvals feature. Other features used in this template include: 

  • Stop tasks - to ensure task order
  • Dynamic due dates - To make sure your initiative is reviewed on time
  • Role assignment - to delegate tasks within your tea, ensuring your supervisors is appropriately assigned to the review tasks
  • Conditional logic - to tailor the checklist to your specific circumstance

Record checklist details

In this BSR Greenwash Prevention Checklist, you will be presented with the following form fields for which you are required to populate with your own specific data. More information for each form field type is provided via linkage to our help pages:

Let's start by recording your business details, your details and the details of your supervisor or manager.

This is a stop task, meaning you cannot progress in this template until the required form fields are populated.

Business details
Your details
Details of Manager/Supervisor
Checklist details

Impact:

Determine your environmental achievement

Please note that what can be considered as an environmental achievement is ambiguous. What one may consider an achievement, another may not. The following questions will help you determine the significance of your environmental achievement and whether it should be deemed noteworthy.

Address material to your business

Make sure the impact you are addressing is an issue related to your core business and is a cause of concern for stakeholders. Otherwise, your message may be perceived as a distraction from the primary environmental issues associated with your business.

Investigate significant resources (time, funds and people)

For this step, you need to consider how much time and resources have been spent on this particular initiative and the number of people involved.

If there has not been considerable investment in the initiative, then it may not be a significant environmental impact worth communicating.

Consider how much money is spent on the activity vs how much is spent on the communication of the activity

If you spend more money on the communication of the actual activity rather than the actual effort used, then it is likely the initiative was driven by reputation and not through  environmental concern.

Consider whether you have already achieved your claims

In some cases, it may be better to wait until you have achieved tangible results before you communicate your aim.

Messages claiming there may be positive results in the future have more potential to be greenwash than those that can accurately convey what impacts have already been achieved.

Alignment:

Consider how many functions you have worked with within your company

If you have not, reconsider the initiative or start collaborating with other functions.

An initiative that has a significant impact will usually require the collaboration of various functions. This includes:

  • Design

  • Procurement

  • Strategy

  • Sustainability

  • Communications

Consider the other activities in your company and whether they are consistent with your message

Look at your other products, procurement practices, and public policy positions. If any of these conflicts with your message, then wait on these communications or see if the other activities can be changed so that they are consistent with your claim.

Of particular focus here should be your company's public policy activities or other products that are not in line with the claim, the message can then be considered as greenwash.

Review whether you have engaged stakeholders and incorporated their feedback

Your stakeholders will be able to provide a perspective that would otherwise be hard for you to see. This will prove helpful in determining the impact of the initiative and also providing guidance on accurate communications.

Communications can be in the form of group discussions or one-on-one meetings.

Review whether your claim can be supported by a credible third party

Consider finding a credible group that could provide useful feedback and certification. Checking your claims with a relevant third party can provide signs of greenwash which you may have missed.

Make sure the third party used is a credible source.

Communication:

Consider whether it is easy for individuals to understand your claim and its significance

Clarity is important for people to understand your message accurately. If people don't understand your claim, then it is ineffective.

Consider whether your company is considered to be trustworthy

If your company is not considered to be trustworthy then be careful. Many people will start with the assumption of greenwash and it could take a while to regain trust.

For companies that have built a reputation for credibility, less justification is needed.

Consider whether you have data to back up your claim

Not having data makes it difficult to communicate impact effectively.  Implement practices to measure impact.

If your initiative is called into question, data will help to back up the claim. Data will also mean you can measure performance against objectives, setting a baseline for future improvements.

Data should not be manipulated to make your claim sound better than it is.

Consider whether you're conveying your understanding of the big picture

Overemphasis on a particular attribute may lead to skepticism.

For example, highlighting an individual feature such as a company's achievements in waste reduction may cause the arrival of questions targeting other features - for instance, greenhouse emissions.

Question whether your message is honest and not self-glorifying

The sustainability of our planet is a tremendous issue and trying to take too much credit can make you sound like you do not understand the gravity of the situation.

Your report:

Your final BSR Greenwash Prevention Report

This is an approval task. Your manager/supervisor will review your report and final attainment to approve, reject or reject with comments. Approval is a stop task, meaning you cannot complete this checklist until the report has been reviewed.

A dynamic due date has been set for the approval of your final report. This has been set 1 day before the checklist due date.

BSR Greenwash Prevention Report

Impact

{{form.1)_Is_the_topic_of_your_message_a_significant_environmental_achievement?}}

{{form.1)_Notes}}

{{form.2)_Are_the_issues_you_are_addressing_material_to_your_business?}}

{{form.2)_Notes}}

{{form.3)_Have_you_invested_significant_resources_(time,_funds,_and_people)?}}

{{form.3)_Notes}}

{{form.4)_Did_you_spend_more_money_on_the_activity_than_on_the_communication_of_the_activity?}}

{{form.4)_Notes}}

{{form.5)_Have_you_already_achieved_the_results_in_your_claim?}}

{{form.5)_Notes}}

Alignment

{{form.6)_Have_you_worked_with_multiple_functions_within_your_company?}}

{{form.6)_Notes}}

{{form.7)_Are_other_activities_in_your_company_consistent_with_this_message?}}

{{form.7)_Notes}}

{{form.8)_Have_you_engaged_stakeholders_and_incorporated_their_feedback?}}

{{form.8)_Notes}}

{{form.9)_Could_your_claim_be_supported_by_a_credible_third_party?}}

{{form.9)_Notes}}

Communication

{{form.10)_Is_it_easy_for_people_to_understand_your_claim_and_its_significance?}}

{{form.10)_Notes}}

{{form.12)_Do_you_have_data_to_back_up_your_claim?}}

{{form.12)_Notes}}

{{form.13)_Are_you_conveying_an_understanding_of_the_big_picture?}}

{{form.13)_Notes}}

{{form.14)_Is_the_message_honest_and_not_self-glorifying?}}

{{form.14)_Notes}}

Select whether, from your assessment, the BSR Greenwash Prevention Checklist has passed or failed.

A pass indicates that no greenwash is deemed to be present.

A fail indicates that greenwash is deemed to be present.

Approval:

Will be submitted for approval:
  • Your final BSR Greenwash Prevention Report
    Will be submitted

Continue to communicate efforts

The communication of your environmental efforts has been deemed as honest and reflective of your efforts. It is deemed ethical to continue to communicate these efforts.

Discontinue communication efforts

The communication of your environmental efforts has been deemed as dishonest and NOT reflective of your efforts. It is deemed unethical to continue to communicate these efforts. D

Discontinue communication

Sources:

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