thenextwave

Countering greenwash

Posted in business, climate change, emerging issues, environment, sustainability by Andrew Curry on 29 July, 2007

Not even August yet and there’s already an outstanding contender for ‘greenwash as chutzpah’ of the year award, in the shape of Vauxhall’s current ‘eco-ad’, which boasts of its 30% reduction in emissions at its Ellesmere Port plant. I’ll expand on the reasons for this in a moment – but it does point up the need for relaiable and trusted metrics – the subject of a good post by John Thackara on the always excellect doors of perception list.

What’s wrong with the Vauxhall claim? Well, the plant laid off 900 of its 3000 workforce about a year ago – and went from three shifts a day to two. So of course carbon emissions have fallen, and by about 30%. This is a bit like meeting one’s national obligations under the Kyoto agreement by closing down the coal industry and switching to gas.

In his Doors post, “How to counter greenwash“, John Thackara picks up an announcement by the UK Carbon Trust and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), who are to work with the British Standards Institute to co-sponsor the development of a Publicly Available Specification (PAS). This is to be a standard method for measuring the embodied green house gas (GHG) emissions in products and services across a wide range of product and service categories and their supply chains. It is intended to enable companies to measure the GHG related impacts of their products, understand the life-cycle climate change impacts of their products, and highlight significant emissions reduction opportunities. The hope is that as it develops other countries may adopt it for use elsewhere.

The PAS will be voluntary – but I’d have thought that it will be something which progressive companies will want to be seen to be signing up for. Once it has developed a credible methodology, it can only be a matter of time before it’s being used as a yardstick of long-term intent by investors or (for example) as one of the criteria for selection in the FTSE4Good Index.

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One Response

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  1. Greenwash Alert said, on 7 September, 2007 at 11:04 pm

    Gotta love greenwashing. Companies that can’t compete, do what they always do — cheat.


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