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Greenwashing 101: How to decipher corporate claims about climate

By Douglas MacMillan

21 Apr 2022 · 9 min read

As big businesses face more pressure to act on climate change, corporations have unleashed a tsunami of environmental pledges, net-zero commitments and sustainability certifications, all designed to show they are part of the solution.

Often, critics say, these claims are just “greenwashing” — environmental marketing with little or no substance behind it. One recent review of 500 commercial websites by Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority found 40 percent of environmental claims to be misleading in some way, such as using terms like “sustainable” without defining them or omitting pertinent information about environmental harms. “Carbon neutral” usually does not mean a firm has zero carbon emissions. A green certification label on a product’s packaging may have no connection to a standard-setting group.

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