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Report: 68% of US execs admit to greenwashing tactics

In a recent international survey of over 1,400 executives across different industries, two thirds questioned whether their company’s sustainability efforts were genuine. In the US, 68% of CEOs and C-suite leaders admitted to greenwashing.

Given the amount of supposed ‘sustainability’ drives from companies that are full of contradictions, it’s no surprise that associated performance reports are sending mixed messages too.

An anonymous survey conducted by the Harris Poll (for Google Cloud) asked just under 1,500 executives across different industries about their brand’s efforts to control their carbon footprints – the majority of which, have more than 500 employees on their payroll.

80% of those who partook rated their workplace as having an ‘above average’ score for environmental consideration and 93% showed willingness to bank their wages on achieving ESG (environmental, social, and governance) goals. Sounds promising, right?

As expected, however, a further peruse through the stats shows that this appetite is likely embellished. 65% of C-suite leaders revealed that they’ve still no idea on how to make their business practices more sustainable, despite vital climate goals rapidly approaching in 2030.

Now, into the downright offensive bracket. 58% shamelessly admitted that their companies were guilty of greenwashing. In the US, which remains the second largest emitter of carbon dioxide globally, that figure rises to a seriously disappointing 68%.

This feeds into previous suggestions that many companies with net-zero campaigns underway have been exaggerating their progress. NewClimate Institute, for one, discovered that 25 such firms are on track for 40% emission reductions and not 100%.

When it comes to actually monitoring improvement, a mere 17% of respondents claimed to be using data from measurement tools to optimise their green strategies, which would suggest that mandatory rulings – the likes of which have been touted by the US and UK – need to come into effect sooner rather than later.

In the meantime, a new UN panel will begin to study corporate net-zero plans and potentially penalise acts of greenwashing. As well as discrediting misleading claims, it will reportedly assist in giving recommendations on how to set credible reduction goals.

Likewise, the European Commission is considering new regulations that would ban vague ecological claims that can’t be ratified. In the last year, we’ve already seen triple the number of ads containing greenwashing banned from circulating on social media in the UK.

While most of us are savvy enough to spot exploitative and shallow PR from a mile off, these are important developments that could help to genuinely change corporate mentalities.

Based on the results of this report here, we certainly need that to materialise.