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Masdar City exec: Let’s talk about greenwashing

Greenwashing – a deceitful marketing gimmick where companies exaggerate their environmental actions – is “egregious” as it takes advantage of a movement that affects everyone on earth, according to Bill Weir, CNN’s chief climate correspondent. 

A recent global survey conducted by US-based The Harris Poll and sponsored by Google Cloud found that six out of 10 executives admitted to overstating – or inaccurately representing – their sustainability activities.

“They are taking away the social licence of other earnest actors who are trying to do the right thing,” Weir said during an exclusive video interview with AGBI

“The biggest threat greenwashing poses is further erosion of trust at a time when human cooperation is more vital than ever,” he added. 

On the other hand, Stephen Severance, director of growth at Masdar City, Abu Dhabi’s sustainability-focused urban community, says that the issue of greenwashing is a “good thing” as companies are now finding green issues important enough to talk about, even if they are not living up to them entirely.

“So culturally it’s a shift. Before you didn’t even have to make lip service to sustainability,” he said. 

The vast majority (85 percent) of executives surveyed acknowledged that customers are more likely to engage and do business with sustainable brands.

“When we started, sustainability was thought of as a cost, charity, CSR (corporate social responsibility),” said Severance. “The real mindset shift is that sustainability is a business opportunity where your customers, employees and stakeholders demand it.” 

Watch the full video to learn more about the seven sins of greenwashing and how to avoid it.