‘We have reached peak greenwashing’: what to do about the sustainability marketing tsunami?

Greenwashing has become a big problem for consumers, investors and regulators as brands spend millions on marketing their sustainability credentials. Eco-Business asked expert communicators Janissa Ng and James Lorenz why greenwashing is so dangerous, and what can be done to stop spin in sustainability communications.

The term “greenwashing” was coined in 1986, so the problem of brands exaggerating their sustainability credentials is nothing new. Most companies try to make themselves look better than they actually are in their marketing. What is different now is that against the rising tide of dubious green claims, we are also starting to see a strong pushback from consumers, investors and regulators.  

On 31 May, Deutsche Bank became the latest big company to get into hot water for greenwashing. Its offices in Frankfurt were raided over allegations that the firm had overstated the green credentials of its investments. Its chief executive subsequently resigned. The saga echoed the finding of a study by Quilter last year, which found that when it comes to environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing, greenwashing was the biggest concern for 44 per cent of investors.

Other big brands, like energy giants Shell and BP, multinational bank HSBC, and even rock band Coldplay have faced awkward questions about their environmental claims this year.

In Asia, e-commerce giant Lazada, pulpwood giant Asia Pulp & Paper and most recently Korean carmaker Hyundai, faced similar scrutiny for making embellished or just plain false claims in their communications.

We have reached peak greenwashing. It’s everywhere.

James Lorenz, executive director, Action Speaks Louder 

Janissa Ng and James Lorenz

Janissa Ng, senior account director, Spurwing Communications, and chair, Sustainability Group, Public Relations and Communications Association of Asia Pacific; James Lorenz, executive director, Action Speaks Louder. Images: LinkedIn

Joining the Eco-Business Podcast to talk about what can be done about greenwashing are James Lorenz, executive director of Action Speaks Louder, a non-profit that holds firms to account for their climate promises, and Janissa Ng, senior account director of public relations firm Spurwing, and the former head of public relations and content at conservation group WWF-Singapore. Ng is chair of a new taskforce to address greenwashing in the PR industry in Asia.

Tune in as we talk about:

  • Why greenwashing is dangerous
  • Have we reached “peak greenwash”?
  • Who are the worst greenwashers?
  • Are consumers wising up?
  • Should PR firms work for big polluters?
  • How can companies avoid greenwashing?
  • What is the most effective way to stop greenwash?
  • Should there be public health warnings on fossil fuel ads?

The full transcript from the podcast: 

This is the Eco Business Podcast. I’m Robin Hicks. Greenwashing has become a big problem as brands jostle to cash in on rising consumer interest in sustainability. So what can be done about brands that make themselves appear green when their business practices or not?

On the 31st of May, Deutsche Bank became the latest big company to get into hot water for greenwashing. Its offices in Frankfurt were raided over allegations that the firm had overstated the green credentials of its investments, and its chief executive subsequently resigned.

Other big brands like Shell, BP, HSBC, and even rock band Coldplay have faced awkward questions about their environmental claims this year, and in Asia, ecommerce giant Lazada and Asia Pulp and Paper have faced similar scrutiny for making exaggerated embellished or just plain false claims in their communications.

The term greenwashing was coined in 1986. So the issue is not new. And companies have always tried to make themselves look better than they actually are in their marketing. But there is a sense that consumers investors and regulators and are starting to push back against the rising tide of dodgy green claims.

Joining the Eco-Business podcast to talk about what to do about greenwashing are two expert communicators, James Lorenz and Janissa Ng.

James Lorenz is executive director of Action speaks louder, an NGO that holds companies accountable for their climate promises. James has managed comms for NGOs such as Greenpeace and Market Forces that are particularly adept at calling out the greenwash of banks and big polluters.

Janissa Ng is senior account director of PR firm Spurwing communications, and the former head of PR and content conservation group WWF, Singapore Janissa is chair of a newly launched taskforce to address greenwashing in the communication sector in Asia.

Welcome to the podcast, Janissa and James. It’s a timely topic. There’s so much greenwashing that seems to swirl around us these days. And both of you in a space in a position to really analyse what’s going on. I want to ask James, first of all, what’s your view on the current state of affairs in greenwashing in Asia Pacific? I mean, just how serious a problem do you feel it is right now?

James Lorenz [2:25]
I think it’s a really timely moment to have this conversation because it kind of feels to an extent like we’ve almost reached peak greenwashing. It feels like it’s everywhere. But I think to a certain extent, it is understandable. And I think it’s always worth understanding where we are in terms of the climate science. And without wanting to go too much into it, we’re at a pretty scary time. There’s so many words said about it, it’s almost hard to for it to cut through. But I think the UN said in a recent speech, we’ve got a rapidly closing window to live on a habitable planet. In Australia, where I live for the last three years, it’s been extraordinary. First we had the bushfires, and we had one in 1000 year floods, and one in 100 year floods. And I think people are people are scared. And I think people really want action. And what that means is that companies really want to respond. And I think a lot of companies want to take action, because their staff care, because their customers care, because their investors care. And I think some of them are genuinely taking action, but a number of others are just sensing the need to take action, basically doing things which are a little more than skin deep. So because there is such a pressure of the moment to take action, we are seeing a huge amount of greenwash.

Robin Hicks [3:50]
Indeed. And Jan, how do you see I mean, you sit in Singapore. You worked with clients that have got operations all over the region. You also chair of a sustainability group for the PR industry association body, how do you see the problem and how serious it has become?

Janissa Ng [4:11]
Well, I’ll start with the fact that we all know sustainability is difficult. It’s not just something that you talk about, you know, you have to somehow get internal by and change our business operations. And then now we have to talk about supply chains. And actually, the other thing about businesses in APEC, a lot of the businesses that have the chance to work with or consult with this, you know, they, they kind of take the global sustainability targets that are set sometimes in the West, and, you know, in Europe, and you know, global sets, these ambitions and then if you look at what’s happening on the ground, in different markets in Asia Pacific, sometimes as a business, it’s really hard to see how to change all that really quickly to match all that, you know, international investor scrutiny into what a business is doing. But the reality for a lot of businesses in Asia is that they have to get their act together. But can they move fast enough? So I think it’s this gap between how fast can businesses, especially those in Asia, where sustainability has become a reality on the ground? How fast can they move? And you know, if you look at the International scrutiny, like James, you talked about peak greenwashing, just also peak scrutiny. So I think there’s this gap where, you know, companies know that they have to be accountable. And yet, there’s only so much they can say, or they feel the pressure to say a lot more. And I think that’s where a lot of the accusations or the instances of greenwashing come from.

Robin Hicks [5.00]

That’s a really good point. Any examples of blatant greenwashing that jump out at you, James?

James Lorenz [5:45]
I think worryingly, to an extent greenwashing has happened across the board. There was a really interesting report from New Climate Institute, which is a group based out of Germany, that looked at the world’s top 25 companies by value. So there’s kind of companies across the board. And we’re talking about companies that when you add up their total emissions, like Google, and Hitachi in Japan, adds up to 5% of global emissions. So it’s huge. And they found that the difference between the company’s headline pledges, and the actual reality was kind of 80% difference, which is huge. I mean, we’re talking about the kind of emissions differential there that can kind of make a difference between whether we succeed or fail in terms of in terms of dealing with climate change. But when you look at Asia, there are a number of really kind of almost stunning examples that stand out.

From a range of different areas. One of the ones that we’ve been working on for the past few weeks is Hyundai, who two weeks after promising that they were going to go 100% renewables announced that they were going to power one of their biggest manufacturing plants with with gas with fossil gas. And then Cannon is another one — another startling example, of a company that’s really focused on sustainability on nature on wildlife, that has a think tank called the Cannon Institute, which is propagating climate denial. So, you know, there are almost so many examples, that it’s hard to keep track of the moment.

Robin Hicks [7:28]
Yeah, and examples that sort of jumped out on me because I think there’s the first time that we eat code, this has started writing about it. In fact, it’s a campaign that came from market forces that you were involved in James is Singapore’s banks. Now, I don’t want to pick on them too much. Because they you know, each of them DBS, OCBC, and UOB, have made strides to divest from coal, and clense their lending portfolio, but they do spend an awful amount of money on marketing how green they are.

Janissa Ng [7:59]
You know, I’m gonna talk about not the biggest but the most common, you know, from somebody in a PR agency that covers Asia Pacific, the most common culprits I think, are ourselves, you know, executives in PR marketing professionals that are creating ads, press releases, writing media pitches about the next new sustainable products, I do think that we have a huge part in kind of perpetuating the confusion and misinformation around like what’s sustainable, and what’s not just some examples that I have, personally, I thought it would be, you know, eco friendly tote bags, or you know, brands saying that they’re doing something, you know, to save the planet, I don’t know how many times I’ve edited that out of materials, or, or, for example, you know, like just something being sustainable, just because it’s recyclable. So I think it’s all these really small, but really common, you know, phrases that I use interchangeably on a daily basis, that’s really creating like a snowballing into a larger problem that the PR industry needs to also address.

James Lorenz [8:54]

That’s really interesting, because it’s so hard for, you know, everyday people with their busy lives to be able to discern what’s real and what is and I mean, particularly as some of the companies are getting so sophisticated doing the kind of the one big thing and the major announcement that makes them do you know, you know, the plastics companies that have this big recycling plant, or they’ve opened in one place that, you know, shuts down after six months, but they get a lot of media coverage about it. And it’s just so it’s so challenging for people to kind of discern what’s real and what isn’t. But I don’t know. I mean, it’d be interesting to get Janissa’s view on this. I get the sense that people are getting a bit wiser to it. You know, the sense that kind of McDonald’s can get away with just changing a few plastic straws. I think people are getting more sophisticated in their understanding of what greenwash is. So companies aren’t able to get away with it maybe quite as much.

Janissa Ng 10:00

And I think companies also see it. Actually, in the last few months when I’m having conversations with clients, I’m hearing more of not just like, oh, I have this new sustainability thing put out press release about it. But you know, should we be talking about it? Are we prepared? You know, what if people ask us what we’re really doing, can we back it up? So, you know, on the back end, I actually see this skepticism, you know, that dreams among consumers translate to PR professionals thinking twice, then the next time they actually want to communicate about sustainability. So I think like, we’re seeing a little bit of like a, you know, little push in the right direction.

James Lorenz [10.37]

I think the reality is there are some companies that pay our agencies should not be working with. And I think that when you’re talking about fossil fuel companies that are not transitioning, I think it’s really hard to justify supporting them. I think it’s really hard for banks to finance and I think it’s really hard for insurers to insure them, because ultimately, there are some companies which are just not going to transition. And I think the greenwash thing is a really important element. But I think it’s a really powerful thing for some of the big PR companies to say enough is enough, you know, there are companies we’re not going to be working with. And that’s something that really strikes sends a strong message.

Robin Hicks [11.16]

That movements of agencies, advertising agencies or PR firms backing away from clients and saying, No, we’re not going to work with you, because you’re a fossil fuels major, seems to be gathering a bit of steam in Australia, in the US, at least, and parts of Europe. But I’m yet to hear of anything in Asia like that happening, and also yet to have any of the big communications companies. So like saying Ogilvy or WPP say no, no, we’re not going to work with BP anymore. I just wonder whether you think your question, John, that you think it’s realistic for big PR agencies or communications firms to say, no, no, no, we’re not going to work for an Exxon, because we know the damage that they do to the climate…

Janissa Ng [12:07]
I think we see this happening in other markets. So I wouldn’t write that off being eventually happening in Asia. But I do think that the pressure needs to come from somewhere. Because you know, we are businesses, I work for a small agency, and I know that every client, you know, is going to feed people in the agency. So ultimately, it’s a business decision. But I think for if you like just like any other industry, if the PR industry is going to step up and actually make a serious commitment, like like that. The costs, I guess, that they face of not working for certain clients, it needs to be higher. And I’m wondering where that would come from to do?

James Lorenz [12.46]

If you are a PR agency, which is which is selling itself to clients as being sustainable PR agency, then there’s definitely a kind of major discrepancy if you’re then, you know, working for for clients, which have a pure play coal company.

Janissa Ng [13.01]

Yeah, absolutely. And actually see a trend, I think of a lot of PR agencies setting up sustainability practices, or bringing sustainability people on board. And most of the times I an event, that’s something that I aspire to do at Spurwing communications, but I actually wonder, what does that actually been? I think there needs to be a lot more nuance in what we’re selling as agencies. And: are we doing it responsibly? If you set up a sustainability practice, you better you better walk the talk, just like any other company out there. 

Robin Hicks [13:36]
Absolutely. Yeah. If you were being cynical about it, you would say it’s another revenue stream for an agency to get clients that have sustainability stories to tell.

James Lorenz [13:50]
You wouldn’t be cynical about the PR industry though, would you, Robin?

Robin Hicks [13:56]
No, heaven forbid! But yeah, we have seen a number of agencies — not just Spurwing — but others such as Red Hill and others across the region, setting up ESG arms or sustainability teams, but again, that could be seen as another sort of form of greenwashing is if it isn’t done well?

Janissa Ng [14:12]
Well, a challenge that a lot of PR professionals face, I think, especially in house, a great question that was brought up was, you know, should sustainability like should roles in sustainability and communications be interchangeable? You know, are they even supposed to be friends? Because if you’re doing sustainability, really, if you want to do it, right, there’s really no need to talk about it. And, and yeah, I was struggling with the thought of, you know, can a sustainability practice in the PR agency be profitable? If per se when half of the job of a PR professional is to actually say no to brands that might want to say something but you know, they might not be right for that.

Robin Hicks [14:55]
Yeah, and I always wonder also, what’s interesting I think is is ways to spot it. Any tell tale signs of greenwash? Mine is one I think is quite interesting is looking at where the sustainability team sits within a corporate structure. If it’s part of the communications or marketing team, that’s a bit of a red flag, because then it sort of implies that there is messaging around sustainability. And that’s its function is to tell stories rather than actually do stuff. I just wonder whether guys if there’s a way you could suggest to our listeners to spot greenwash?

Janissa Ng [15:34]
I think the best way is to see how the claims are substantiated. And if you’re a pure professional listening to this, it needs to be you know, you make a claim, make a statement about your client, but it needs to be backed up by what’s actually happening on the ground.

James Lorenz [15:51]
It’s really hard. I think, people I think people are getting smarter at it. Robin, I think people kind of know when they’re being sold a pup by companies. But ultimately, it is difficult. And there is a lot of complexity and brands are getting very sophisticated at hiding their greenwash. You know, ultimately, you need to, you know, when a company makes an announcement, you essentially need to look at how much money is spent on the announcement, you know, how much money has been spent on on what they’re doing, you know, when you when you look at some of the big oil and gas companies, you know, all of their PR know, is covered in wind turbines, but they’re spending what kind of 1% of their capex on, on clean energy. But that’s not an easy thing to pick up. You know, and I think that that’s a really challenging thing for people.

Janissa Ng [16:43]
It is actually access where the environmental footprint is, and whether the announcement corresponds to the footprint of the business, you know, you can be, for example, there’s this report about, you know, protein, if you’re a restaurant or food company that deals in food supply chains, yes you can report on waste, but the bulk of your the environmental footprint of your business comes from your food supply chains. So does the announcement relate to the core business of the company? I think that’s a clear way to look at it, you know, fossil fuel company, sponsoring a scholarship or educational event? 

James Lorenz [17:22]
Right? And it’s hard, isn’t it? Plastics is another one, which is just so frustrating, Just the scale of what the kind of, you know, the Unilever’s and the Nestle’s of this world do I mean, so much of so much of the plastics they produce is kind of virgin plastic, and so little a bit is actually dealt with. But I think I do think people are getting a little bit wiser to it. But the problem is, I think everyone wants a silver bullet, they want a simple answer. And there isn’t a simple answer to this. Uultimately, the simple answer as a consumer is not one that a lot of people want to hear, which is, if you buy fast fashion, the chances are it’s going to be bad for the environment. If you buy water bottles, the chances are it’s going to be bad for the environment. So, sometimes it’s saying to people kind of buy less of the things you love. And I know that sounds like a kind of like old man-ish, conservative thing to say. But I think it’s really, it’s really important. When I was preparing for this this morning, I was thinking, what to say to people, because so many people care about the environment, and so many people care about the climate. And I think it can be disempowering. But I just think that people don’t realise their power, particularly in a workplace, because companies are desperate to employ the best people, and I think raising your voice in the workplace is just a really strong thing to do. Because ultimately, companies are made up of people, and they care what the staff think, generally speaking, and I think it’s such a powerful way to affect change. For me, it’s one of the frustrating things that companies blame consumers. I mean, one of the biggest examples of brainwash was a couple of years ago, where, you know, shell was putting out tweet saying, what are you going to do to save the environment? I mean, you’re talking about a company with like, you know, what, 2% of global emissions or something like that.

Robin Hicks [19:30]
I want to go back to you, Jan, as well, and the taskforce that you’re leading at the PRCA, which is to address greenwashing in the public relations industry. Personally, I’ve given PR agencies a bit of kicking over the years. And by the way, you know, Eco-Business or other publications like ours, we’re not immune to greenwashing either. We do branded content, and some of that you could well point a finger out and say, well, that’s that’s greenwashing. You’re telling the story of a big polluter. Isn’t that greenwash? But going back to PR? What are the sort of things that the PR industry can do to help brands avoid greenwashing, Jan?

Janissa Ng [20:11]
I think firstly, understanding what sustainability claims really are. And even for people in, you know, the industry, we know how complex sustainability standards documents can be even NGOs don’t entirely agree all the time. So I think, but key are people that, you know, the moment you get a brief from clients do this, you know, rather than just going head to right, I think what we hope to do through the PRCA sustainability group is to equip professionals with at least a little bit of the context of what goes into sustainability standards, when do you see something sustainable, you can’t just use it on everything. And also, there’s a real opportunity for communicators to frame you know, what businesses are doing, as part of the wider solution, because ultimately, we’re not just here to call out greenwashing or you know, to to make one brand look good. But ultimately, it’s about highlighting the solutions that really work and facilitating conversations that are unnecessary, either between consumers and businesses, or businesses and their investors or even governments. And I think this is really essential if you’re going to be bridging this gap about, you know, what businesses need to be doing. And as a start, PR people need to, you know, not just need to be more informed, I guess, about what we can do. And finally, I think there’s one, you know, how do we address things like, you know, by doing this thing, this brand is saving the Earth? Can we have… can we create a bit more awareness, or new ones into how we are talking about the reason why we need sustainability. It is not just for environmental issues for the sake of it, but also understanding the social impact, you know, the link to workers rights? That’s what sustainability really is. We’re talking about business operating in a responsible way.

Robin Hicks [21:54]
That’s interesting. Here’s a question for both of you, actually, you first and so do you think the level of greenwashing that we’re seeing at the moment is affecting how much faith people consumers have in a brand communications as a whole?

Janissa Ng [22:08]
There was a WWF and essential survey last year, which found that a third of consumers don’t really trust what brands are saying, maybe. But if I can be honest, Robin, if I were consumer, in a supermarket making a split second decision, I will not be making a perfect choice, because in reality, I’m going to be thinking about sustainability, but also a ton of other factors like health or, or cost effectiveness. So, whether consumers trust brands, I think, sometimes a certain extent, we just look at what’s under packaging. And we try to, you know, take it as a given, because that’s why we can do you know, for example, in a supermarket, I think the responsibility needs to lie with the brands to make sure that whatever they’re putting out, they are responsible from a business operations perspective. And for the person maybe writing a copy, or counseling the brand to understand what certain claims really mean. I think that’s where this part of the process where the PR industry, I think we can take more responsibility for.

Robin Hicks [23:04]
Yeah, okay. And over to you, James. Now, as we’ve mentioned, before your your job, you’ve spent a lot of time highlighting, and sometimes exposing greenwash among big corporates, you mentioned Hyundai, there have been numerous others. Do you think that highlighting greenwash is an effective way to stop it?

James Lorenz [23:26]
My sense is that people and companies tend to behave better when they’re being watched. And, you know, I don’t think that’s particularly happy to say, but I think it’s a reality. And it is complex, as Janissa says, but I think the fact that there are organizations and people and regulators out there who are bringing your direct degree of accountability to business claims, I think, is absolutely critical to driving positive change. So yeah, I do think calling out is effective because, you know, ultimately, a lot of people in most companies want to do the right thing. And it’s it’s dangerous reputation me for a company to be saying things which aren’t right or which are misleading, because in terms of hiring people, bringing in staff staff who want to work for an organization they care about, customers don’t want to buy from from a company that you know, has just been revealed that is truly destroying the planet. And it’s the same for investors. Increasingly, investors are focused on this too. And as well as regulators, which I think are increasingly cracking down on companies that are saying things which just aren’t right.

Robin Hicks [24:44]
I want to ask you, Jan, actually, perhaps James, if you want to chip in too, about the role of the media in calling out greenwash. Do you think the media has done a good enough job of calling out greenwash?

Janissa Ng [24:56]
Even in Singapore, even if the media doesn’t do it, I see plenty of people online on social media, student groups in particular that are calling out greenwashing no matter what. And so, you know, for brands that you might be putting out claims in Singapore, it’s not like they don’t have the checks or the scrutiny, I think they are also hearing the voices on social media in equal measure.

Robin Hicks [25:22]
What do you think, James?

James Lorenz [25:24]
I think I mean, partly to relate to one of Janissa’s points earlier, calling out greenwashing, understanding complex announcements from big companies is hard. And what you’re seeing from some of the bigger companies is they intentionally hide the reality behind complex announcements that they’re making. And it isn’t easy. I mean, when you look at admissions, you’ve got scope. One, you’ve got scope two, you’ve got the scope three, you’ve got different types of renewable energy, you’ve got offsets. It is hard for a journalist, particularly a busy journalist to get their head around, you know, a rash of announcements coming out in in huge papers. But that said, I do think it’s contingent on media to be more critical when these announcements are coming out. I think, you know, the days of critically, uncritically reporting, when when one particular company announces a net zero policy, which is meaningless, I think those days need to be over. And there needs to be much more of a kind of in depth questioning of actually, when you see a policy, what does it mean? And I take net zero as an example, because so many companies are getting away with plaudits for announcing a policy with no targets, you know, which, which effectively is meaningless. And I think it’s really important that journalists are able to kind of hold their feet to the flame, because it’s critical.

Robin Hicks [26:54]
I want to get on to how we can hold brands responsible for greenwashing. We’ve seen a few cases, mainly in Europe, of regulators flexing their muscle against we’ve seen Deutsche Bank, most recently that CEO quit, after their offices were raided over allegations of massaging sustainable finance claims. So yeah, how what’s the best way to hold brands accountable, Janissa?

Janissa Ng [27:27]
I think what’s happening in Europe, in terms of regulations, maybe or targets, that’s definitely closely watched by Asia. Unfortunately, in Asia, it does have to come from I still believe that it needs to be regulations, it needs to be investors that are guiding what’s happening in the businesses. That’s where that’s where the biggest influence comes from. Yeah, so actually, if I, I will put my money or where the money comes from, for businesses, and that’s, it needs to be investors. And then regulators.

Robin Hicks [28:02]
And Jan, your taskforce for PRCA… voluntary moves like that are a way to stave off regulation, right, to keep regulators from moving in on the communications industry, who will say: Listen, guys, you’ve got to do a better job of policing greenwashing yourselves.

James Lorenz [28:24]
I think one of the meanness tricks you see from a lot of big companies is blaming the consumer, saying: this is your fault, you need to do more — you’re going to be the one that makes a difference. And I think, ultimately, consumers, people like us, we can be discerning in our purchases. We can hold brands accountable. It’s doable, but it’s hard. People have busy lives. And I think ultimately, it has to be done by regulators, and it has to be done by the investors. And they’re not there at the moment, but it is changing.

Recently, probably last week, the Monetary Authority of Singapore’s Deputy Director, Tan Keng Heng, said asset managers “need to walk the talk” and they are developing ESG standards. You see the same in the US. You see the same from the US Securities and Exchange Commission, you see the same from the Australian Securities Exchange Commission. It is happening, the walls are closing in on companies that are getting are trying to get away with greenwash and rightly so. It’s not there yet, but it is definitely happening.

Robin Hicks [29:36]
Let’s have a think about what the future may look like. And we did a story not too long ago that, you know, asked if will the future be, you know, public health warnings on fossil fuels advertising that we’ve seen for tobacco? Is that the way we’re going to go with communications?

Janissa Ng [29:55]
I think firstly, as an industry we want PR professionals across Asia to be equipped with the knowledge and the skills to talk about how to broach issues about sustainability in an informed way. And this means having the influence and ideally, in an ideal world PR has the power to shape, influence and inspire when done, right. So, ideally, our end goal and our ambition is, can we not just be informed, and you know, do what we do really well, but use, you know, our influence to, to shape great brands that are accountable to what they’re saying to be part of a productive and necessary conversation, to reach even senior level management, in companies and in brands to shape what they are saying around you know, their successful environmental responsibility. So that’s the end goal that we do envision p are in an ideal having the ability to do on a more practical level for the working group what how we are tackling this is firstly, we need the industry on board. You know, this is why this is volunteer led. This is regional, we want to bring as many people together whether it’s through events or initiatives, to first connect people in PR to maybe experts, or NGOs that can help with knowledge building, and perhaps even setting standards for how we are communicating or certain phrases that we are using, or guiding principles for how we will act in general, to ensure that we are upholding a certain standard for for sustainability communications.

Robin Hicks [31:25]
So you mentioned language there. A favourite phrase of mine is “sustainability is in our DNA”, which if I had, if I had $1 for every time I’ve read that in a press release, yeah, I wouldn’t need to work anymore! But James, looking at the future. And given the trends that we’ve observed going on right now, how do you see the future of comms evolving related to greenwash and sustainability?

James Lorenz [31:53]
How I feel about this kind of depends on the day. But I think we all just need to consider that the next 10 years are absolutely critical. And, and when I hear this, sometimes I think, you know, maybe it’s being overdramatic, it is, but actually, when you look at the science, we’ve got 10 years to get our missions to a level, where we have the hope of protecting, you know, our lives, you know, the world around us, it’s critical that everybody pulls together to take action on it, I mean, that that’s a reality we’re faced with. And that means that the regulators need to pull their socks up, you know, they need to put more pressure on companies. And I think sometimes that it’s a bit disempowering for kind of the average person looking at kind of the scale of what needs to be done. But I think, you know, to it to everybody listening in to all of us, I think we just need to recognize that companies are made up of people. And that within companies be the, you know, Bs, communicators, marketers, whatever you do in a company, you know, your voice can be heard. And I think it’s important that, you know, as staff members, we raise our voices as activists taking action to kind of hold feet to the flame, we need to keep the pressure up.

Robin Hicks [33:11]
And in doing so, I hope that there’s enough pressure to be able to deliver the action we need. I think that that’s the reality of it. I think that’s a really good place to leave it. Thank you both. James Lorenz Janissa Ng for joining the Eco-Business podcast.

The podcast has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Production by Benjamin Wong

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