Five Key points of “How to avoid being mistaken for greenwashing?”

Greenwashing is a marketing technique that pretends to be environmentally conscious despite initiatives that do not correspond to the actual situation. Similarly, the term “SDG wash,” which superficially makes it appear that a company is committed to the SDGs, has also become common in recent years.

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Even if unintentional, the sin of spreading misinformation about a product as if it were environmentally friendly to confuse consumers and distract them from the original sustainable efforts is a serious one. Not only will the effort fail, but the image of the company or brand may be severely damaged, possibly resulting in lawsuits.

We would like to introduce some points that companies and restaurants should keep in mind in order to avoid the misinterpretation that the initiative, which was launched with a sincere and full commitment to the issue, is a greenwash or SDG-wash.

Table of Contents

    1. Disclose specific objectives and results.
    2. Demonstrate feasibility of the plan
    3. Stakeholder Participation
    4. Obtain third-party certification
    5. Contest Challenge
    6. Editor’s Note

1. Disclose specific objectives and results.

First, it is important to accurately communicate and disclose the company’s initiatives, objectives, and results to ensure transparency of the efforts. By disclosing progress related to its initiatives on its website, etc., the company can gain the trust of its customers and stakeholders.

It is also more effective to explain what standards and regulations are followed by including specific figures such as energy use, amount of waste, recycling rate, etc. When explaining, try to be clear and easy for consumers to understand. For example, use specific units of measurement, such as “70% organic cotton” instead of “organic cotton used”.

2. Demonstrate feasibility of the plan

In order for a company to make its initiatives viable, they must not be merely pictorial, but must be feasible in terms of time and have the necessary budget, personnel, and other resources to make them happen. By setting a specific time frame, the progress of the plan can be properly managed and the viability of the plan can be enhanced. It is important to set clear goals and create a schedule, such as, “We will begin work on ____ in 2024 and complete ____ in 2030.”

3. Stakeholder participation

It is also effective to involve stakeholders such as customers, suppliers, and employees and their families in the initiative, reflecting their opinions and ideas. By involving more people than just your company, you can demonstrate that your initiatives are socially responsible. It is also recommended to invite stakeholders and hold seminars and events. Furthermore, by publishing a report on the day of the event, it will show that the initiative is progressing in real time with the participation of many people.

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4. Obtain third-party organization

Having a third-party organization certify a company’s sustainability efforts demonstrates the credibility of the company’s efforts. For example, the Japan Sustainable Restaurant Association’s rating index is used as an evaluation indicator for “The World’s 50 Best Restaurants,” known as the Academy Awards for food, and is highly recognized worldwide. The company’s sustainability activities are based on clear indicators. The company also offers the “Food Made Good 50,” a simple diagnostic tool that allows you to understand the current status of your company’s sustainability activities based on clear indicators.

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5. Challenge contests

Similar to the fourth item mentioned, “obtaining certification from a third-party organization,” entering a contest is a good way to receive objective evaluation. By entering a contest, winning a prize, and making a public announcement, not only does it increase the credibility and persuasiveness of your efforts, but it also provides an opportunity to learn about the efforts of other entrants. Even if you do not win, you will be able to expand your network within your industry and in the sustainability field by participating in the contest with other companies and organizations.

There are currently many sustainability-related contests. It is important to confirm that the organizer of the contest is a reputable organization such as a major corporation, government agency, or NGO, and that the judges have professional knowledge and experience. It is also important to check in advance that the selection process for the judges is clear.

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Editor’s Note

According to the Consumer Affairs Agency’s 2020 survey, 81.2% of all consumers answered that they “have purchased and would like to continue purchasing” or “have never purchased but would like to continue purchasing” products and services that lead to ethical consumption. This is an increase of 19.4% compared to the 2016 survey, indicating a growing awareness of environmental and social issues.

As consumer awareness grows, so does the scrutiny of initiatives. Even if it is a misunderstanding, it takes a lot of effort, time, and money to regain lost trust. We would like to promote our sustainable initiatives confidently and steadily by regularly checking our activities so as not to be seen as “greenwashing” or “SDG-washing”.

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[Reference Site] Consumer Affairs Agency: Summary of Consumer Awareness Survey Report on Ethical Consumption (Ethical Consumption)

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