Key Insights from Irwin Mitchell’s Webinar
In today's world, where sustainability is of paramount importance, the issue of greenwashing has risen to the forefront.
In order to bring greater awareness to this topic, Irwin Mitchell recently organised a webinar that brought together three experts: Professor Ian Thompson, Georgie Collins, and Sioned Davies. This article aims to summarise some of the key discussion points and shed some light on the intricate issue of greenwashing and its impact on sustainability and responsible business practices.
Chaired by Irwin Mitchell environment lawyer, Jill Crawford, the three guests discussed various aspects of greenwashing, including its definition, common tactics, risks, legal and regulatory landscape, and the role of monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) in combating greenwashing.
Professor Ian Thompson, a Professor of Accounting and Sustainability at the University of Birmingham, provided insights into how greenwashing occurs in corporate accounting and communication. He explained that greenwashing involves a disconnect between what companies say and what they actually do.
He stated: "Greenwashing is a term used to describe the disconnect between what people are saying and what they are actually doing in relation to sustainability and responsible business practices."
He emphasised the importance of avoiding unclear terms and using evidence to support claims. He also highlighted the significance of clear language, symbols, pictures, and jargon in corporate communication.
Georgie Collins, an IP and reputation management expert at Irwin Mitchell, discussed the legal and regulatory landscape of greenwashing. She mentioned the Business Protection from Misleading Marketing Regulations, which address misleading claims in business-to-business advertising.
She emphasised the reputational and legal risks associated with greenwashing and provided examples of recent ASA rulings against companies making false environmental claims. She said: "The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) has been increasingly active in clamping down on green claims, and their rulings can have significant reputational consequences for companies."
Sioned Davies, a planning and environmental barrister at No. 5 Chambers, focused on the challenges and considerations related to natural capital projects and offsetting.
She highlighted the importance of monitoring, reporting, and verification (MRV) in ensuring the credibility and integrity of offset projects. Davies discussed the risks of unclear language, lack of evidence, and issues like additionality, permanence, leakage, and double counting in offset projects. She also mentioned the role of standards like the Woodland Carbon Code and Peatland Code in ensuring the quality and credibility of natural capital projects.
In conclusion, the webinar highlighted the complexities and risks of greenwashing in sustainability and responsible business practices. It emphasised the need for clear and evidence-based communication, compliance with regulations, and robust MRV processes to combat greenwashing effectively. By being vigilant and transparent, businesses can ensure responsible environmental practices and build trust with stakeholders.
Irwin Mitchell recently launched a new ESG advisory service which supports organisations on a host of issues including greenwashing.