Consumers overly-cynical thanks to greenwashing

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By: Wise Marketer Staff |

Posted on April 25, 2008

Marks & Spencer has earned the 'green crown' among UK businesses, according to a survey of consumers by Chatsworth Communications, which also found that there is a growing public cynicism toward the eco-friendly image portrayed by many businesses.

The 'Chatsworth FOOTSIE 100' green survey polled UK national and trade journalists, sustainability experts, and political groups in an attempt to measure how successful large corporations are perceived to be in tackling green issues.

Rise of the green cynic
The survey revealed an increasing cynicism as to whether or not UK businesses will ever really aim for anything more than 'greenwashing' if there is no official leadership or legislation concerning environmental issues.

Among the study's main findings:

  • BP (38%), Tesco (21%) and British Airways (10%) were considered by survey respondents to be the leaders in greenwashing;
  • Marks & Spencer (51%) was the clear leader in terms of public opinion about its green activities, followed by BSkyB (9%), HSBC (7%), and BT Group (6%);
  • 40% of respondents believed that Marks & Spencer had run the best-publicised green campaign during the previous six months, although 10% believed the company was simply greenwashing.
  • Half of respondents believed that the current level of media coverage is contributing to 'green fatigue' among the general public;
  • National governments (48%) are expected to take the lead on environmental issues, followed by the individual (19%).

Public awareness
According to Nick Murray-Leslie of Chatsworth, "Marks & Spencer's continuing lead reflects its high-profile 'Plan A' campaign, which has been praised for setting out clear and achievable targets rather than attempting to boost green credentials through publicity stunts that gain lots of coverage but have little substance."

The general public is much more aware of ecological problems and the roles that big businesses have to play in solving them. As a result the public is increasingly scrutinising businesses' sustainability programmes, and Chatsworth warns that it should be every company's priority to make sure that they communicate their green efforts honestly and effectively.

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