You could be forgiven for thinking that big companies with the vaguest interest in flashing their green credentials – even when those credentials are somwhat tenuous – do tend to get out there and do it. A lot.
But no, according to a new study. Big tech companies – you know, those shrinking violets of the marketing scene, like Microsoft and Cisco – often fail to tell the world about all the good they’re doing to save the world. Yes, that’s right. Oh and it’s the opposite of ‘greenwashing’, so they’ve called it ‘greywashing’ (or presumably ‘graywashing’ for Americans).
From the study, which actually involved some real academics (the University of Amsterdam Business School) and some real data (voluntary survey responses to the Carbon Disclosure Project):
As this study shows, top global ICT companies are making sustainability a driving factor in decisions related to financial investments, supply chain policies and human resources management. Climate change related goals are increasingly being integrated in the core functions of the company. What we find is that companies don’t get recognized for their efforts as much as they could. As climate change is becoming more mainstream, there is a need for companies to engage and communicate more directly with strategic stakeholders, including consumers.
And why don’t they get the recognition they so richly deserve? Sometimes it’s because – seriously now – they are too modest:
For many companies, this is an area of weakness, for others it is an act of modesty. Either way, the result is a process of greywashing: companies that are actually green seem grey in the eyes of the beholder.
So what they need to do is…
As climate change becomes an increasingly mainstream issue, there is a need for organizations to engage more directly with consumers, labor unions, and civic groups. The natural evolution of these types of communications is now consumer focused and it is important that these messages incorporating both marketing and public affairs. Strategic communications should be aligned with the stakeholder’s interest while still being aware of policy limitation and opportunities for companies.
You get the drift. To be fair, the report does include a few tips on how to report emissions more effectively to the likes of the CDP, such as counting supply chain and other inputs.
But somehow, we’re not expecting ‘greywashing’ to enter the lexicon soon, unless it’s via some kind of Martin Lukes-style satire.
Some kind soul has published the whole report here, if any CSR managers for large ICT firms happen to need it.