Social Impact & Advocacy

Avoid Greenwashing: A Communications Guide for Companies

April 12th, 2023

what is greenwashing

As part of Earth Month, we’re sharing a series of weekly blog posts with strategies, insights and conversations with our Environment & Climate PR team.

Climate change continues to be one of the most pressing issues of our time. The latest IPCC report made clear note of its threat to human well-being and planetary health last month. And while there is no one “silver bullet” that will solve the climate crisis, climate tech companies play a crucial role in addressing this challenge. As more companies are developing groundbreaking technologies that can help reduce carbon emissions, improve energy efficiency and promote sustainable practices, at the same time, there is also a growing concern about greenwashing.

What is greenwashing?

Greenwashing is a practice where companies make false or exaggerated claims about their environmental performance or benefits. 

For example, while countless corporations have made ambitious climate commitments, such as pledging to emit net zero emissions by 2050, as time has gone on, it has become increasingly apparent that many companies are only talking the talk, rather than walking the walk. The 2023 Corporate Climate Responsibility Monitor found that the combined net-zero pledges of 24 industry-leading companies would reduce their total target greenhouse-gas emissions by just 36%, compared with the needed emission reductions of at least 90% (WSJ).

As climate change has finally gained prominence among the general public, individuals have become more cautious of companies that make climate commitments and promises without following through on them. 

It’s essential for brands to develop effective PR strategies that avoid greenwashing and build trust with their audience. And for climate tech businesses in particular, this includes the need to develop effective PR strategies that allow them to communicate their climate impact accurately and transparently to a broad range of audiences.

Here are some PR strategies that can help climate tech businesses avoid greenwashing and build a reputation for environmental responsibility and leadership:

Be transparent about your environmental impact.

One of the most important PR strategies for climate tech companies is to be transparent about their climate impact. This means providing accurate and detailed information about the real-world effects that their products and services have on our ability to tackle the climate challenge—and being candid about their own internal sustainability practices as well. 

Having public metrics, goals and processes to measure success will help communicate a commitment to sustainability, which can boost public confidence in the brand. By being transparent, brands can build trust across their core audiences, whether that’s customers and investors or potential partners and employees and more. 

Focus on measurable outcomes.

When communicating about their environmental impact, whether internally as a business or externally for their customers, climate tech businesses should focus on tangible, measurable outcomes. This means providing specific data and metrics that demonstrate their environmental impact and sustainability practices. For example, instead of saying that a product is “green” or “eco-friendly,” a business could provide data on the percentage of recycled materials used in the product or the amount of carbon emissions reduced by using the product.

Similarly, wherever possible, climate tech companies should show—rather than simply tell—how their solution is achieving sustainability in the real world. This could look like a case study with a marquee customer or a webinar with a key partner discussing results and impact in detail, for example. 

Authenticity is key.

Finally, it’s essential for climate tech businesses to be authentic in their communications about their impact on the climate and overarching sustainability practices. As we approach Earth Day, for example, we are likely to see countless social posts and company statements celebrating the environment and climate conscious practices. But to become a trusted brand within the climate sector, it’s important to reliably engage in these vital conversations year round.