Are claims of sustainability just a cover up to disguise the behaviour of many of today’s leading companies and businesses?
The practice of ‘greenwashing’ – where organisations, firms and individuals misleadingly claim their products and methods are environmentally-friendly – is rife. Recent research showed how 40 percent of online green claims could be deemed misleading.
Climate activist Greta Thunberg recently called out this behaviour and how the actions of many companies and leaders do not match up with their green rhetoric in a blistering address at the Austrian World Summit. She said:
“Eventually the public pressure was too much. You have the world’s eyes on you, so you started to act. Not acting as in taking climate action, but acting as in role-playing. Playing politics, playing with words, and playing with our future. Pretending to take responsibility – acting as saviours as you try to convince us that things are being taken seriously. Meanwhile the gap between your rhetoric and reality keeps growing wider and wider.”
Governments need to offer greater incentives
Gede Witsen (GW): When it comes to environmental protection and initiatives, governments need to do more to offer incentives through their policies. They need to adopt a similar approach to the vaccine roll out to encourage companies to embrace greener practices, change company culture and create more green jobs. We are trying to reach net zero by 2050 but it doesn’t feel as if it’s happening right now.
Bibiana Bartschova (BB): For example, in Madrid, there are a lot of policies for Electric Vehicles. If you buy one, then you will get certain benefits such as being able to access the best car parking options in the city. These kinds of incentives could be used elsewhere.
Adopt an intergenerational approach
BB: At CLIMA and 25onehundred, we’re adopting an intergenerational approach as we believe this combination of skills, ideas and experience can provide the best results when it comes to tackling climate change.
There are a lot of people trying to take action but we don’t see the collaboration. We feel this can come from private sector investment which is what we’re trying to do with CLIMA. This is about communicating effectively – all the experts have to do is communicate properly with young people to get their ideas and opinions.
GW: I admire Greta Thunberg. She is amazing – but we need to approach it in a holistic way where youth and older generations can collaborate on coming up with solutions. Governments need to consider working with youth and youth groups to create taskforces so we can share perspectives, ideas and find solutions together. We are at the stage where youth has been protesting – but we need to make protestors into solution makers.
Nations need to get creative
GW: Nations need to come up with innovation to try to promote new climate protection solutions, enterprises and technologies. That’s what we do at CLIMA and why we set it up – we want to support grassroots ideas. Many are already happening across the world but they’re not getting the exposure they deserve. They are having great impact but have no support or capital so are not profitable. This needs to change.
If we invest and change the paradigm of investing – so you invest at the grassroots, then you also create impact alongside returns – this is perhaps the first step into a greener future.
It’s not too late – but we must avoid greenwashing
BB: It’s human to realise things last minute and take action last minute. But my biggest fear is sustainability just being a current trend, about companies creating positive PR but little long-term action.
GW: Sustainability trends is a good thing in some ways as it makes people more conscious and aware of what’s happening – which is great. But greenwashing isn’t. We see a lot of that and how do we avoid it? This takes a paradigm shift – we need to look at the economy as an impact one with harmony between individuals, business and governments too.
Embed impact awareness in the next generation
GW: I’m hopeful, I’m 21 and see my classmates graduating and they will soon become masters students, then get into roles where they can make a difference. The next generation of politicians and business leaders will have the potential to understand the impact of their actions – which is where the importance of collaboration comes in. I hope that change will come from this next generation getting into power…
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