CSR Between Misleading Information And Real Commitment: Some Corporate Cases of Greenwashing and Transparency

Today almost all companies boast internal CSR programs and a greater sensitivity to environmental and social issues. However, the reality of the facts is quite different, despite an undisputed generalized attention to these topics. There are virtuous examples of companies that have sustainability as part of their DNA and that are genuinely concerned about the impact of their work on the environment and society. On the other hand, there is also a widespread phenomenon of greenwashing, that concerns those companies that adopt specific communication strategies to emphasize an environmental and social sensitivity, which does not correspond to the reality of the facts. Sustainability is “fashionable” and useful to improve the reputation of the company and to attract more customers. For example, 4 major oil companies, the European BP and Shell and the US Chevron and ExxonMobil have been recently accused of greenwashing, based on research published in Plos One, which showed the inconsistency between their statements and course of action.

At the European level, there are still no ad hoc regulations to sanction cases of greenwashing, but several countries are autonomously adopting specific tools for the protection of citizens and businesses. At the court of Gorizia, at the end of 2021, the first civil sentence in Italy was issued, to sanction greenwashing.

In January 2022 the UK Competition and Markets Authority (Cma) officially included greenwashing among the issues to be tackled, in addition to the Green Claims Code, published at the end of 2021, containing guidelines for companies that make environmental declarations.

While on the one hand there are many companies guilty of greenwashing practices, for which sanctions are necessary, on the other many companies are working towards greater transparency and reporting of their work. Some multinationals in the beauty world, Henkel, L’Oréal, Lvmh, Natura & Co and Unilever have announced a new global collaboration, to form a super partisan consortium – therefore disconnected from the interests of brands – which provides clear, transparent and detailed information to consumers, over the entire life cycle of beauty products purchased or sought after, verified by third parties.

B Corps and Benefit Companies are further business models that enhance a real sustainable approach to the market. More and more companies are opting for B Corp certification. There are 4600 B Corps in the world and 140 B Corps in Italy. Some examples are Renovit, which has recently been certified, becoming the largest Italian B Corp in the energy efficiency sector, or Illycaffè certified since last year and which has obtained recognition from the World’s Most Ethical Companies as the only Italian company.

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