Great companies have been built on visionary decisions by people that understand the complexities of their consumers views and expectations. And yet, the modern company executive seems focused on immediate returns and trying to get away with doing the bare-minimum rather than 'stretching' to achieve even greater respect and support.
Perhaps the most recent and spectacular example of organisations failing to understand the expectation of honesty by consumers must be Volkswagen. Last year, it emerged that their US branch had been falsifying emission records and passing their vehicles off as Eco-friendly when they were in fact anything but..! And as if this was bad enough, it now transpires that the problems and lies extend to their European operations as well, and it just gets worse. A company that built its reputation for good quality, honesty and affordability since the late '50's was caught-out in the worst possible way in modern times - greenwashing, and they are paying the cost in ways they couldn't imagine a few years ago.
But they are not alone in this. In spite of very clear bias by consumers to more sustainable and responsible products and services, most manufacturers of consumer goods still fail to see the benefits of independent endorsement of their manufacturing processes or their self-claims of being green. Take for example, the cosmetic and cleaning products industries, where corporate labels proliferate and where opposition to any external labeling or verification is perhaps hysterical at best. Consumers are expected to simply believe the claims that are being made, and manufacturers continue to fob unacceptable and sometimes even dangerous ingredients off onto unsuspecting users. Graphic designers have a full-time job designing even more elaborate, cute, cuddly and totally misleading labels and logo's to entice the unsuspecting public into believing that what they are being sold is safe and responsible when if fact it isn't.
Soap and cleaning product manufacturers market and promote their products as 'earth-friendly', 'green', 'environmentally friendly' and any number of catchy terms because they really don't give a damn about our health or our ability to catch them out. A few years ago, the manufacturers of a well-known ecological range of shampoo's and soaps were caught-out hiding a potentially harmful chemical in their products by 'omission' rather than anything more sinister, and when they were discovered, it cost hundreds of millions to change formulations and repair the reputational damage that they suffered. And today, where they were in the top ten sellers before, they now battle to regain their market-share because of having been caught lying! That's right people - lying because that is what greenwashing really is. The term conjures visions of something harmless and 'fun' when in fact marketing this way is potentially dangerous to the planet and everyone of us living on it. Would you buy food that you know has been treated with harmful chemicals even when it says its 'green' and safe? Hardly.
Trying to get manufacturers to adopt an ecolabel is as difficult as herding cats, because in most cases, they fail to see the benefit of external verification or labeling. It's not about the cost of labeling itself - because God knows they can afford it, but rather their reluctance is due to having to change something in their manufacturing process that could potentially cost money even though they are more responsible and often viable alternatives. They remain happy to palm their products off as 'friendly' and to hope no-one discovers the poisons they are punting, rather than being honest with their clients. To them we say 'learn from the largest global corporations that have fallen this way' and change the way you do business.
By all means, don't adopt an ecolabel for your products or services, but stop misleading your market and unsuspecting consumers with lies and deceit. The least you owe yourself and your shareholders is the responsibility to protect your brand and reputation - even if it does kill and maim your users.
''... can't see the benefits..." - perhaps you don't want to!