It will all come out in the greenwash

Environmental credientials are becoming a serious factor in buying decisions

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Billy

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4 October 2019 | 0

It would be remiss not to congratulate Epson Europe for achieving 55% renewable energy use and to be on course to hit 100% renewable energy by next year as Tech Central reports here. Credit where credit’s due. The printer manufacturer has set itself several other laudable targets, such as banning single use plastics by 2020 and a 19% reduction in business flights by 2025. It has also reduced employee CO2 emissions by 6% and greenhouse gas emissions are down 18% despite increasing its employee numbers and warehouse footprint.

This all fits into the company’s portrayal of itself as an organisation committed to sustainability, “which is why eco-conscious decisions are present not only in every stage of our product lifecycle but across the decisions that we make on a day-to-day basis,” says Daniel Quelch, CSR & sustainability manager for Epson UK & Ireland. “It’s important for us to create transparency on the impacts we’re creating on the environment, so that we can learn and build on this, and also encourage other organisations to do the same.”

Any organisation that seeks to do something about its environmental footprint and improve its sustainability – and, by extension, for its customers as well – deserves commendation. Especially when, in this sceptical age, there are many who are all too conscious of the curse of greenwashing by organisations seeking to inflate their green credentials to try and mislead environmentally aware customers.

There is a growing acceptance from many businesses that being able to demonstrate a commitment to sustainability can only help to attract prospective customers. That doesn’t mean it’s the most significant factor in any decision. Far from it. There is often a baseline that customers expect businesses to match which may not be particularly onerous, especially if they live in a country governed by a climate-sceptic administration.

In some instances, the ‘greenness’ of a product or supplier may be confined to a stamp and a statement on a box, website or invoice, along the lines of ‘such and such conforms to XYZ environmental standard’. From the customer’s perspective, the semblance of conforming to an environmental standard will be a tick in the box and nothing more.

Spin cycle

In other words, their concerns, such as they are, can be assuaged frequently by an environmental assurance that is commonplace and barely noteworthy. This can be a good thing because it shows that the environmental credentials of a product or service can be easily measured and people can see that it conforms to the applicable standards.

This can be a bad thing, however, because the comfort it brings makes it harder for suppliers that want to make the environmental credentials of their product or service a differentiator. After all, if a product or service conforms to the baseline standard, why should anyone but the most environmentally aware customer be interested in making their buying decision based on whether a product goes beyond that or not?

And yet, it may well be that in the fairly near future, customers will need to focus on environmental impacts when it comes to buying technology because they will be a much more critical part of the purchasing decision than they are now. Today, the way that we attribute cost and value to goods and services follows a well-established route in terms of what it costs to make it, transport it and sell it. But it is very likely that there will be a time when all of those things will be refracted through the environmental cost and impact for each of those steps on the route to market. The hope is that technology will play a leading role in enabling that change rather than server as a major contributor to its cause.

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