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The trend for businesses to go “green” is one that has grown tremendously popular in recent years. As more and more companies took up the mantle of environmentalism or talked about “giving back to the community,” it became almost a requirement to have some form of altruism in your business.

Nowadays, so many companies advertise themselves as being environmentally- or community-focused because it gives them a lot of good will and improves their brand image.

Now don’t get us wrong, if companies are improving their practices to be better for the environment or the community, then that’s wonderful! Every company should do its part to give back to those less fortunate and make ethically sound decisions, but the problem is when things like this happen:

 

GreenWashing

This photo was posted (and subsequently removed) from Reddit earlier this week with the title “My local Starbucks is only feigning social consciousness”. It’s incredible how the actions of one Starbucks store can dramatically impact the brand image over the Internet. The original photo link on Imgur is still present here.

Obviously, this is the action of one store that got too lazy to separate their garbage from their recycling and is no way indicative of Starbucks’ overall business, but the damage, however mild, had been done.

This is a form of “greenwashing,” a term reserved for companies who pretend to be environmentally conscious, but who are completely phony. If your company is thinking about going green, make sure the entire thing is transparent and genuine.

Honestly, if you don’t have any green practices (but want to jump on the bandwagon), here are three good reasons not to do this.

1. Your current reputation will be damaged
With anti-corporate sentiment at an all-time high (which is why many companies wanted to start going green in the first place), activists and members of the public will drag your precious brand image through the mud if they find out you’ve been lying about your green practices.  Don’t give people a reason to hate your company more than they already do.

2.  It will hurt all your future chances of going green
If your business decides later on that they want to actually go green, any efforts you make will constantly be overshadowed by your past mistakes. Honestly, who would believe you? At best, people will think it’s a PR move to try and atone for your wrongdoings, and at worst, critics will think you’re just lying to the general public again.

3. It corrupts your company culture
Lets say you manage to pull this off. You proudly claim to give money to plant trees but you’re actually using it to buy donuts for your meeting rooms. The public is none the wiser and you enjoy your newfound popularity.

What sort of message is this sending to your management team? What about your employees? Although seemingly innocent, your executives are willfully lying to your stakeholders and your customers. A simple white lie can compromise your entire company culture.

If you pride yourself and your company on being clean and ethical, you need to be honest with the public in everything you do.