Are you a small business owner who prides themselves on being “green”? Before you hire a writer to create marketing materials that broadcast that message to the world at large, it’s important to take a good look in the mirror and make sure that your company, products, and services are truly as eco-conscious as your message proclaims them to be. Businesses small and large have recently begun taking the heat, and rightfully so, for “greenwashing” their company’s image. Before you hire a writer, be clear on what claims they can and cannot ethically make about the sustainability and environmental impact of your business.
The Greenwashing Index
“Greenwashing” essentially describes the practice of promoting your small business practices as being more eco-friendly than they actually are. The Greenwashing Index, a joint project of the University of Oregon and an environmentally friendly social marketing firm, seeks to stop this practice by actively soliciting advertisements and marketing materials from customers, then creating ratings based on a clear set of criteria. If your advertisement or written copy is misleading, overly vague, introduces unprovable claims, or otherwise leaves out pertinent information about your company’s impact on the environment, then you may find yourself with a “Bogus” rating from the Index.
The stated goal of the Index is to hold businesses accountable for their claims and ultimately encourage all businesses to use more sustainable practices that they can accurately describe in their advertisements. The site has generated press from a number of news outlets, which has forced companies, from major media channels to beverage manufacturers, to answer for inaccurate claims they’d made about their company’s commitments to the environment.
Eager vs. Accurate
For a small business owner, you’re most likely to find yourself with greenwashed content if you hire an overeager, inexperienced content writer. Eager marketing writers looking to please their clients tend to oversell certain aspects of a business, product, or service, so if your company even hints at a commitment to environmentally friendly practices, you may find yourself with copy that overstates or exaggerates the reality of your daily operations. While it’s good practice to always carefully read and approve any marketing content, it’s also a sound idea to hire expert writers who know how to translate your vision and your work into accurate copy that you can stand by. A professional writer won’t exaggerate or overemphasize any aspect of your business, let alone your environmental practices, and a solid writer will also welcome clear, specific guidelines around how much of your environmental policies to discuss in the first place.
Avoiding greenwashing is as easy as being honest and hiring writers who share your commitment to integrity, but truly being green takes discipline, solid relationship building, and ethical sourcing. In other words, if it feels too easy to be green, then it probably is.
Caitlin C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.