It really ain’t easy being green. People have got a little complacent at times, a fair-trade coffee here a carbon-neutral chocolate bar there and we’re all doing our bit right?
Well, not really.
Every company now devotes serious time and money to corporate social responsibility schemes but people have been smelling a rat with laissez-faire CSR for a while now.
I think the number of central London pubs sporting a carbon neutral certificate, curling at the corners from the rigours of the booze-laden air, illustrates this quite clearly – everyone seems to be claiming to be green. There’s no wonder that there is a growing cynicism about this.
There is good reason to believe that some are serious about these schemes – it certainly shows a willingness to address sustainability within corporate structures – but there sometimes seems an inherent dishonesty to a lot of this work? Plenty of organisations have fallen into the trap of supporting work that has conflicting goals with their own.
Companies can’t simply paper over the fissures that there work creates, nor pay money into a sustainability pot and expect to set the world right and pick up the eco-conscious pounds. Dr Shubro Sen, the founder of the Conscious Capitalism Initiative, warns that: "We operate in a digital fishbowl. So you are going to get found out, you can't fake it any more".
The real problem is that organisations just aren’t that good at this. And, who can blame them? PR consultants will sympathise with the inability of certain clients to step outside the company message, in fact it’s one of the things agencies can do so effectively for businesses. An outside perspective is so important to really understanding outward perception.
Recent research claimed that only about a quarter (28 percent) of organisations with a CSR strategy are integrating it into their corporate communications strategy, let alone placing it in the hands of an external expert. It seems to me, something could be done to ensure this is this integral part of their messaging is part of the offering from agencies.
I’ll free up my conscience a bit here by clarifying that corporate CSR is only a tiny part of a major battle for sustainability, but it feels an area that suits the skills of B2B agencies exceptionally well.
The world of CSR is in constant flux and competing claims, complete falsehoods and a lack of expertise has created a void where money is readily flowing. Filling this void and mainstreaming green issues and CSR advice into the B2B offering could be a chance to put some of the money currently wasted on ‘green-washing’ to serious use.