We explain below what we consider greenwashing and what not. We have a climate urgency and it's important to act now, which is why we want to help companies in their sustainable transition. So let's tackle the greenwashing issue!
Our general policy is not to judge companies on their pollution. Some NGOs, like Greenpeace, will take the fight head-on with the big corporations to try to make them change from the outside.
We take the same challenge but to change them from the inside. For this we offer help, advice, but we refrain to judge them. Other NGOs will do this, but by doing it, they will not be in a good position to offer help.
Transitioning to sustainability is a journey. It's important to understand that. It doesn't happen in a day nor in one action. It's neither a 1 man plan. It takes time to change the culture of a company. We have even developed our own methodology to help companies make their sustainability transition: Discover Tree-Nation's methodology to become a sustainable company.
Many times planting trees is the very first action some companies will take for the environment. Instead of stopping there it helps their team talk internally about sustainability with less taboo. We help them first regain their pride, showing a path where their work is not incompatible with sustainability. It's the first step.
So, in general, it's not our policy to judge. That being said, we have to be careful with abuse. On one occasion we experienced a case of greenwashing and took a very simple rule to first define what is greenwashing. For example if a fossil fuel company wants to plant 1 million trees, should we say no? Aren't they the ones that should plant more trees? Should we say no because this is not enough? Then instead of starting now they may wait precious years to start because they can't start progressively.
We have a simple and very efficient rule:
'Do not spend more on communicating about your tree planting activities than what you spend on planting the trees.'
Pretty simple. It's efficient because it's easy to measure. To follow the above example, if a fossil fuel company wants to plant with us we will advise them to not communicate too much about it. Be modest. Start planting but don't necessarily communicate about it.
What we often see is that the opposite can happen. Frankly, this worries us more than greenwashing: passivity. Here is an extract of our methodology article.
Don't hesitate, don't wait.
Perfect is the enemy of good. Often a company doesn't dare to improve one aspect of their products to make it more sustainable because the rest of the product isn't. This will attract the press/public on the company's dent into sustainability and the company may be criticized for not doing enough. To avoid that, the company will do things well, so they might delay this project to take the time to completely change their product.
This behavior is a serious mistake that slows down a company's transition to sustainability.
We believe any small change is a sufficient and valid step and should never be delayed.
This doesn't mean we accept every company. Here is an extract of our knowledge base article on the topic:
We may have some restrictions for companies that are working in industries whose activity could be seen as harmful for human health, for animals or for the environment as well as activities that could be considered inappropriate for certain public. Such industries like Tobacco, Alcohol, Oil, Adult-only... should contact us for authorization before any communication.
Full article: Are you allowed to communicate on your partnership with Tree-Nation?
Our experience over the years have led us to meet lots of large corporation staff and discuss their sustainability frankly. What we witnessed is that most people in those large corporations are extremely eager to make change happen, and always bring more sustainability to their company. However it's often very complex to make drastic changes in large corporations. It's not an excuse, obviously. Change must happen. But in our view, finding the way to make things change is not necessarily to take the fight head-on with companies and isolate them from experts who may provide advice. You need both the good cop and the bad cop. We are the good ones :)