Red-flagging Greenwashing in procurement

What is Greenwashing? How does Greenwashing relate to procurement? What can be done to fight against it?

Greenwashing is the practice of making false or misleading claims about the environmental benefits of a product, service, or company. It’s often used to make a company or product appear more environmentally friendly than it really is, in order to appeal to consumers who are concerned about the environment.

The Politics of Greenwashing

Greenwashing in procurement is the mirror image of propaganda in politics.

Seen through this lens, Its purpose is to appeal to the electorate (the consumer), through PR, disinformation and spin, to garner support (moolah), through groundless claims, (false advertising).

In the context of Procurement, greenwashing refers to the organisational practice of purchasing products or services that are advertised as being environmentally friendly, but which may not actually be as sustainable or eco-friendly as claimed.

The consequences of this corporate hide-and-seek can be disastrous, both for purchasing companies, consumers and the ecological environment that could be impacted by the consequences of such false representations.

Procurement's responsibility to fight against Greenwashing claims

Since procurement professionals are becoming increasingly responsible for evaluating the environmental impact of the products and services they purchase, they are at greater risk of being duped by greenwashing claims.

Procurement professionals may rely on environmental claims made by vendors, and may not have the expertise or resources to independently verify those claims.

As a result, they may end up purchasing products that are not as environmentally friendly as advertised, and may even contribute to environmental degradation.

To avoid supporting greenwashing, procurement professionals need to be diligent in researching and verifying the environmental claims made by vendors.

Greenwashing can take many forms, such as making false or exaggerated claims about a product's eco-friendliness, using vague or misleading language to describe a product's environmental benefits, or using eco-friendly buzzwords without actually providing any evidence of real environmental benefits.

For example, a company might claim that a product is ‘all natural’, ‘organic’ or ‘environmentally friendly’,  when it in fact contains synthetic ingredients or is produced using environmentally damaging practices.

3 tips for Procurement in the fight against Greenwashing

Greenwashing is a common problem in the marketplace, and it can be difficult for consumers and procurement professionals to identify and avoid products and companies that engage in greenwashing. To avoid inadvertently supporting greenwashing, procurement professionals can take a number of steps:

1. Look for vague or unspecific language

Companies that are genuinely environmentally friendly will often provide specific and verifiable information about their environmental practices and impacts. Companies that are engaging in greenwashing on the other hand, may use vague or unspecific language to describe their environmental efforts, or may make broad and unsupported claims about the environmental benefits of their products.

2. Be wary of buzzwords and greenwashing labels

Companies that engage in greenwashing may use eco-friendly buzzwords like "natural," "organic," or "sustainable" to make their products appear more environmentally friendly, even if those claims are not backed up by any concrete evidence. Similarly, they may use self-created or meaningless labels or certifications to make their products appear more environmentally friendly.

3. Do your own research

Instead of relying on the environmental claims made by a company or its marketing materials, take the time to do your own research to verify those claims. Look for independent certifications or labels that provide reliable information about a product's environmental impact, and seek out sources of information from reputable third parties.

By being aware of these strategies and taking the time to do your own research, procurement professionals can help ensure that they are not supporting companies that engage in greenwashing, and can make more informed and sustainable purchasing decisions.

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