Greenwashing Hype and False Environmental Claims Tarnishing British Businesses

The green credentials of British businesses are falling far short of their environmental claims. That is the conclusion of Gareth Dale, a Senior Lecturer in Politics and International Relations at Brunel University, writing in the International Journal of Management Concepts and Philosophy.

Dale has investigated how several major UK companies have responded to the threat of climate change. By comparing their public rhetoric with actual corporate adjustments made to address climate change, he has found that their business practices "fall far short of the claims made." This, he says, raises important questions about how far companies can go, particularly as we face impending recession, when confronting climate change. "Bad remedies may be diverting attention from and even driving out good ones," he says.

Big companies including multitasking corporations like Richard Branson's Virgin and Tesco, bankers such as HSBC and Barclaycard, media companies such as BSkyB and the major oil companies like BP, have all embraced the wider trends of the green revolution. Until the economic downturn hijacked the nation's news desks barely a day would pass without a report on how blue-chip companies were investigating climate-change mitigation strategies. But, asks Dale, was this investigating followed up by investment or is the talk of address global warming nothing more than boardroom hot air?

Several companies claim to have achieved carbon neutrality. Others are pumping cash into carbon sinks and surveys. Consumers are even rating the eco credentials of the likes of Virgin, Tesco, and Marks & Spencer, and BP as being in the top twenty of green firms.

When it comes to biofuels, carbon offsetting, the use of renewables, carbon sequestration, many companies are flying the green flag and rebranding and relabelling themselves as champions of the green movement. Yet, Dale's analysis of the actual energy use and pollution production of many major corporations reveals this in many cases to be nothing more than a cynical attempt to trump their competitors with garbled ecological rationality in the name of profits.

"A more effective and more just strategy would involve concerted state intervention focused upon investment in public transport, housing and renewable energy, coupled with regulatory measures to radically reduce fossil-fuel use," concludes Dale.

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