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How fake news is impacting the sustainability sector

  • Publish Date: Posted about 1 year ago
  • Author:by Jenelle Bayger


Information travels fast in the digital age. Given how easy it is for consumers to access new content, businesses must ensure that all the data they share is factual and not fake news. Last year, a report from Newsworks found that 80% of people in the UK came across fake news in their day-to-day lives. Out of these, over half of them (52%) admit they have been deceived by fake news at least once.

Fake news and false advertising are a form of misinformation that can negatively affect people's decision-making and spread harmful or inaccurate information that may otherwise be important, as in the case of medical news. For that reason, businesses must be wary about the information they put out to consumers. In recent years, fake news and misinformation have also taken root in the sustainability sector.

Greenwashing and misleading advertisements

Greenwashing is the use of unsubstantiated claims to deceive consumers into believing a product is environmentally friendly or falsely claiming that the product is positively impacting the environment more than it is. Companies today may commit greenwashing to appeal to the growing target audience of people concerned about the environment by using environmental imagery and buzzwords. However, they often fail to follow through completely with their claims.

With the rise of digital advertising, it's a challenge to avoid fake ads designed to mislead consumers. Ayima's write-up on fake ads discusses how even the mainstream press fails to spot false sources and can even end up publishing fake news stories that get extensive airtime. Although there may be some elements of truth in these reports, they won't be easy to distinguish. Because information can easily be accessed online, greenwashing has become more widespread as businesses can post misleading content that presents their activities as more "green" than they are.

How to avoid greenwashing

Today, businesses across different industries are guilty of greenwashing, deceiving consumers and their workforce in the process. Some businesses may be greenwashing unintentionally. Sustainability efforts and initiatives may be new to some, and a common critique of the movement is that it's challenging to measure sustainability efforts and performance accurately. Nonetheless, it's our responsibility to be transparent and trustworthy to our consumers. So how do you avoid being misleading? Below are two valuable tips to keep in mind:

Transparent and clear wording

Often, the most straightforward way for customers to verify a company's sustainability and environmental impact claims is to go straight to the source — the business website or other forms of digital presence such as social media. The UK's Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) recently released guidance to crack down on misleading green claims, reminding businesses not to omit essential information when it comes to sustainability claims such as emissions or recyclability of products.

Look at the company culture

Finally, ensuring that your business's sustainability initiatives are successful requires aligning your workforce with your organisation's purpose. According to Allen & York’s recent LinkedIn poll, 67% of people surveyed would refuse a job offer if a company's environmental, sustainability, or climate control values are not aligned with their own. As much as consumers are looking to support greener businesses, employees also increasingly want to work for environmentally committed companies, especially those aligned with their social justice values.

To reiterate our post on "Resourcing Responsible Business", the goal of a responsible organisation is to ensure their business benefits society and addresses the negative impacts it might have on people and the planet as a whole. As such, companies should strengthen their core sustainability principles and fight back against fake news to reduce overall harm.

Penned by: Jenelle Bayger

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