Big business goes green for image not environment, says poll

Big business is going green to protect its reputation rather than out of concern for the environment, a survey of opinion formers has found.

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The poll of trade journalists, sustainability experts and political groups revealed widespread cynicism about the motives of some of the UK’s biggest companies.

Nick Murray-Leslie, director of Chatsworth Communications, which carried out the poll, said: “Many opinion formers appear to be losing faith in the real intentions of UK corporates to meet their sustainable objectives and many detect more than a faint whiff of insincerity from the FTSE 100 and its commitment to sustainable practices.”

More than a quarter of those polled believed companies adopt green policies to protect their reputation, with around a fifth saying initiatives are the result of consumer pressure and good business sense.

Only 1% believed genuine concern for the environment was the main motivation for becoming more environmentally friendly.

“Perceptions as to the sincerity and effectiveness of corporate green campaigns are closely linked to sector,” said Mr Murray-Leslie.

“No matter how hard oil companies or airlines try to improve their green credentials, their efforts are always likely be perceived as greenwash, as they are ultimately still big net polluters.

Marks & Spencer and HSBC were voted the companies making the most effort to be green.

Respondents held BP, Tesco and British Airways most guilty of “greenwash” aimed at creating an eco-friendly corporate image.

Three quarters of those surveyed believed it was better for big business to own up where they are not green and show willingness to make changes.

“We hope the results of this survey will provide a timely reminder to UK business that their commitment to the environment needs to be sustained and genuine to convince the public and the opinion formers who influence them,” said Mr Murray-Leslie.

David Gibbs

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