Two Sides goes on attack against greenwashing

Two Sides Australia is going on the offensive this year against companies breaking rules with deceptive claims encouraging consumers to ditch paper for digital.

Executive director Kellie Northwood says the organisation has been working to stamp out corporate greenwashing for years but will up its game considerably as the global body launches a renewed push in 2015.

Northwood says the Australian arm has so far focused on privately speaking to companies believed to be in breach of greenwashing legislation and ACCC guidelines, but will now be more proactive and report uncooperative firms to the watchdog.

“Australia has it easier than many other countries because of the ACCC guidelines, which very clearly spell out what is and what isn’t allowed,” she says.

[Related: More news from Two Sides]

A 2012 British study found 70 per cent of telecoms businesses, 43 per cent of major banks and 30 per cent of utility companies made inaccurate claims. When challenged by Two Sides, 82 per cent changed their marketing messages.

More than half of American Fortune 500 companies are also said to be offenders, but Northwood says the numbers are somewhat lower in Australia.

Global Two Sides chairman Martyn Eustace says the research shows many companies are still flouting rules in their respective countries.

“That marketers in some of the most high-profile corporations in the world still use unsubstantiated and misleading environmental claims to persuade consumers to switch is outrageous,” he says.

“Many consumers still have a strong preference for paper but they are being manipulated by a lack of clear and accurate information.”

Northwood says while many businesses defend their messages and use legal arguments, Two Sides has had some success in Australia, with many in both public and private sectors listening.

“Those agreeing to change their messages include three major publically-listed companies and a number of state government departments,” she says.

Northwood says Australian consumers have also become more educated about the environmental impact of paper as opposed to electronics, and this is prompting businesses to change their tune.

“People are savvier than 18 months ago and realise how much coal burning is involved in making and powering electronic devices, as Australia is so dependent on coal,” she says.

“Many marketing departments don’t realise their messages are in breach, or don’t know the facts and are happy to change them.

“Utility companies used to be the worst but in the past 6-12 months they have toned it down. Everyone sees the landscape shifting.”

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