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How to cut through corporate greenwashing. And why it matters.

4 minutes

Nowadays you can’t read a magazine or scroll your feed without being told that some company or product is sustainable, carbon neutral or even carbon positive.

Greenwash

Companies everywhere are leaping on the bandwagon, trying to convince their customers that all is ok.

The sad fact is, things are far from rosy. And claims around sustainability and carbon neutrality are often empty promises, or simply marketing jargon.

So let’s dig a little deeper and see how we can spot and cut through today’s greenwashing.

The truth about carbon neutrality

The claim of carbon neutrality is often achieved through carbon offsetting, where a company pays a fee for each ton of carbon they emit, so they can have the equivalent quantity absorbed. This might be achieved through nature based solutions like planting trees or active removal projects where carbon is actually sucked out of the air.

These carbon offsetting projects do have their upsides. They funnel money into positive projects such as planting new trees. And providing that these projects are well designed for the long term, this should be welcomed. The planting and care of woodlands needs every penny it can get.

The downside of carbon offsetting claims

However, there is a downside. The problem with offsetting is that greenhouse gases are being emitted now, and the trees being planted to remove these gases won’t do their job for decades.

Knowing what we do about the urgency of our situation, this is not soon enough.

With many quick and easy carbon offsetting options available today, claiming carbon neutrality is simple to do. But while it’s great for marketing, this approach only masks the problem.

Offsetting allows companies to claim that they, or their products, are carbon neutral, positive or negative (all confusingly used to mean good) when in fact greenhouse gases are still being emitted and the problem is only getting worse.

On top of this, the tidal wave of sustainability claims gives the impression that all is well. When really our situation is far from ok. In fact, I’d say we are up the creek.

Cutting through corporate greenwash

So, how do we work out what’s true and what isn’t?

It starts with researching before you buy and digging under the surface of these green claims.

Here are a 3 quick ways to spot and cut through greenwashing

  1. Check vague terms and slogans It’s not uncommon to see phrases like ‘green’ ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘natural’ on products today. These portray a sustainable image, but in reality they tell you nothing about a product’s real environmental impact. Take a look at the product details or ask questions about where and how it has been made.
  2. Look for proof If a business is saying they’re organic, supplying products from managed forests or sourcing sustainably, look for proof that backs up these claims. Are they part of a reliable certification scheme, or are they endorsed by a trustworthy third party, for example?
  3. Seek out transparency Businesses who are genuinely doing their best to minimise impact will gladly talk about their efforts. They may even point out areas that still need work. So if a company is saying one thing, but doesn’t talk about the hows and whys, you might want to look deeper, or try another option.

“What about you?” we hear you ask

Greenwashing is something we feel really strongly about. So much so, that we don’t describe our Brimstone wood as sustainable, eco-friendly or carbon neutral. Because it’s just not true.

The truth is, Brimstone is one of the least impactful building products you can buy today. But it still leaves a mark. We know there is room for improvement. And we’re working hard to make those changes.

When customers ask us about the impact of our products, we give them a transparent, honest answer. One that’s backed up by facts.

On that note, here are some facts about Brimstone

We have measured the impact of producing Brimstone (Download EPD) and we’re continuing to reduce this impact.

Right now, from harvesting the tree to finally disposing of the cladding at the end of its useful life, 1m2 of 20 x 145mm Brimstone cladding creates 8kg of C02e. (CO2e is Carbon dioxide plus other greenhouse gases).

To put that into context, 1m² of brick-faced Precast Concrete Cladding creates 122 kg of CO2e*

*MPA Precast EPD date

In terms of reducing our impact, we’re also:

At the end of the day, making fully informed purchase decisions is one of the most important ways we can help our planet.

There are no easy answers or perfect decisions, as everything makes a mark. But seeing through the marketing jargon and being armed with the facts means our decisions can be wiser.

And right now that can really make a difference.

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