Today there are many political and social positions that are convenient for companies to adopt when defining their brand identity, but which are not consistent with the real facts. Such is the case of rainbow washing (which has its own note in Red/Acción within the framework of pride month), from pinkwashing or of greenwashing –which could be translated as “green makeup”. The latter is a problem, it is so real that there are already several measures to regulate and prevent it, one of which was created by the United Nations (UN). But, to get there, let’s see point by point:
what is the greenwashing?
He greenwashing is the name given to the business practice of using commitment to the environment as a marketing strategy, without these concerns being taken into account in their activities or mode of production. To be more precise, in Regulation (EU) 2020/852 the European Parliament defines the greenwashing as “lThe practice of gaining an unfair competitive advantage by marketing a financial product as environmentally friendly when, in fact, it does not meet basic environmental requirements..
The most common forms that the greenwashing in companies from all sectors (food, automotive, energy, finance, fashion, transport, tourism) is by adding the words “bio”, “eco” or “green” to their products, using packaging green, ambiguous or confusing language that refers to environmental benefits and even, as told in this text of European University, false labels that simulate organic certification and make the user believe that the brand has passed some certification process and has the support of institutions or organizations outside the company.
How does the UN relate to this problem?
At the United Nations conference in Davos in 1999, Kofi Annan (then its director) made a risky decision with a high chance of being frowned upon: created an instrument to integrate the private sector into its action plan, called the Global Compact.
The mission of sharing principles and values that would give a human face to the global market was raised, inviting companies and organizations to commit to 10 universal principles in the areas of human rights, labor standards, the environment and the fight against corruption.
Currently, its objective is to mobilize the business sector to commit to the 10 universal principles and, consequently, to embark on the purpose of solving the greatest challenges of the planet and humanity in 15 years (which are elaborated in the document Agenda 2030). The objectives of the companies that embark on this mission are mainly based on the idea of sustainable development.
What is sustainable development and how does it fit into the agenda?
According to the United Nations definition, sustainable development is “development capable of meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are the blueprint for a sustainable future for all. They are interrelated with each other and incorporate the global challenges we face every day, such as poverty, inequality, climate, environmental degradation, prosperity, peace and justice. In order to leave no one behind, it is important that we achieve each of these targets by 2030.
Prevention of greenwashing: communication of progress
Although it was essential for the private sector to join in order to meet the objectives of the 2030 agenda, a problem immediately arose: there were companies that formally adhered but did not demonstrate it in their actions or, if they did, they measured it with different indicators, so its progress was unparalleled and it was difficult to quantify the overall impact of the instrument.
Given this, the international organization has already found a solution through the COP (for its acronym in English, communication of progress): The United Nations Global Compact requires participating companies to prepare an annual COP detailing their efforts to integrate the Ten Principles into their strategies and operations, as well as their efforts to support societal priorities. The COP is a visible expression of your commitment to sustainability and can be viewed by stakeholders on your company profile page. This measure does not include an economic penalty for those who fail to comply, but it does include a stain on their reputation as they can be removed from the initiative.
Of course, the annual COP includes surveys that address all aspects of the Pact in the same way for all companies, and even You can access user manuals for companies that want to be part of the initiative, but they don’t know how to apply it.