Recruit the Truth: How Accurate Emissions Data Can Nip Greenwashing Accusations in the Bud

As the knot that ties sustainability to a company’s purse strings becomes tighter and tighter, and the value of having strong sustainability credentials becomes clearer and clearer, so does the impulse to garnish the truth about a company’s sustainability record. Enter greenwashing.

Greenwashing can come in many forms, from using creative language in sustainability comms to inflate impact to the relatively benign act of accidentally getting it wrong because your emissions data wasn’t quite accurate enough.

Whatever the cause, the symptoms are to be avoided. Without enough data to get proper oversight of their own emissions, businesses risk being on the wrong side of the truth. With good data, businesses can take charge of their own emissions reduction journey, secure in the knowledge that they’ve got the truth on their side.

The Accidental Greenwash: Don’t Get Scandalised

Just the accusation of greenwashing can cause major reputational damage to businesses. With the corporate net of responsibility wider than ever, it’s easy for emissions to slip through the gaps. This is especially true with scope 3 emissions and the supply chain. The public, regulators, investors, the media and consumers have trained their ever-watchful eye on businesses with long tail supply chains, which means businesses will have to be just as scrupulous to avoid greenwashing.

Insufficient or inaccurate data can lead to businesses being blindsided by greenwashing scandals without ever having intended to greenwash in the first place. Emissions blindspots are a serious reputational risk for businesses. Businesses require emissions clarity to avoid nasty surprises in the supply chain, which is why staying on top of Scope 3, the emissions that result from activities in company supply chains, is critical. Scope 3 emissions reporting can be particularly risky, as they are outside of the businesses’ direct control.

Hyundai recently claimed that the sale of 10,000 of their cars would be the equivalent of planting 60,000 trees. That the statement was a lie is too hard to prove, it might even have been true, but it was unprovable enough as to be considered misleading in the media.

Early adopters are already reporting on their scope 1, 2, and 3 emissions, but the data they use doesn’t always hold up, especially when compared to the accuracy of their financial reporting equivalent. Until we live in a world where data on businesses’ emissions factors is just as accurate as their bookkeeping, the accidental greenwash will always be lurking. Thankfully, Emitwise believes such a world is possible, and is making it happen with ever more granular and credible emissions data that stands up against scrutiny.

Insulate Yourself With Good Emissions Data

There’s no verification without data – but what data? The truth is that without good data, companies can’t make concrete claims, but the opposite is also true, without good data businesses can’t be held accountable for the claims they make.

If greenwashing is one end of the spectrum, greenhushing is the other. With the amount of greenwashing accusations flying around and the reputational damage being caused, some companies would prefer not to publicise their green initiatives at all out of fear that they may not be as green as they say.

Without a firm grasp of who’s doing what in their supply chain, how can companies be sure that they aren’t greenwashing? And, if they can’t be sure they aren’t greenwashing, will their emissions reports ever be a full representation of the truth and safe from greenwashing accusations?

Supply chains are huge. Products can pass through so many hands that businesses need a platform that’s powerful enough to collate and distil all that data into insight trustworthy enough to use in emissions reports. This is not to say that businesses can just cherry-pick the data that makes them look the best; that’s greenwashing too. Use objective data that’s a true reflection of reality.

Using good data to backup your emissions reporting is about trust, transparency and truth, but it can also be revelatory. Scope 4 are emissions avoided by company activities like offsetting or more sustainable manufacturing methods. Scope 4 data can be the building blocks of a good emissions statement, if they’re calculated accurately and verifiable.

Don’t Verify Yourself, Partner Up With Emitwise

A thorough emissions calculator will tell you exactly what you can, and can’t say on your emissions report. It will also give you a strong defence against accusations of greenwashing. For Emitwise, data accuracy is priority number 1, so clients can be confident that their claims are 100% greenwash-free.

Accurate data on Scope 3 can minimise the risk of nasty surprises and maximise the chance of uncovering avoided emissions in the supply chain, which is why 85% of the emissions Emitwise tracks are Scope 3. Businesses can identify the highest emissions risks in their activities, prioritise resources, and take steps to address those risks.

Using Emitwise allows businesses to review their emissions continuously, check progress and communicate their net zero carbon journey to internal and external stakeholders. With Emitwise’s data backing them up, businesses can be sure their pledges align with their impact.

The EU’s proposed Green Claims Directive will codify this burden of proof for companies with its requirement that they have any environmental claims externally verified, and there’s no verification without data. In the UK, new regulations are on the way that could impose fines on companies found to be greenwashing. Sustainability law that starts in the EU has a tendency to spread elsewhere in the globe, so we’d be surprised if we didn’t see other jurisdictions enforcing laws against greenwashing in the near future. As regulations against greenwashing proliferate, the risk attached to greenwashing will go from being reputational to financial and legal.

The marketing incentive to grab whatever data you can get hold of and make public declarations about your sustainability badges may be tempting, but, in the end, the real conversation to be had is one of how to improve the quality and accuracy of our emissions data. 

Data won’t turn pledges into action on its own, but you can use it to show off your measurables, demonstrate alignment with science based targets (SBTs) and reassure the world that you aren’t greenwashing. Emitwise can show you how.