The Leading News & Information Service For The Facilities, Workplace & Built Environment Community

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Greenwashing – The Importance of Transparency

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Greenwashing – The Importance of Transparency
21 February 2023

James Ricketts from Fooditude outlines the potential pitfalls of greenwashing and his tips on how to communicate sustainability in corporate catering.

James is a content manager at Fooditude, a delivered office catering company based in London. Day-to-day, you'll find him developing and managing Fooditude's marketing strategy. His areas of interest include workplace wellness and sustainability-to-marketing communications.



Picture: a photograph of James. Image Credit: Fooditude


"Greenwashing is about breaking trust. If your stakeholders and audience see your company's sustainability communications as exaggerated or unsubstantiated, there is a loss of credibility."


What is Greenwashing?


The Oxford English Dictionary definition of greenwashing is: “The creation or propagation of an unfounded or misleading environmentalist image.”

Communicating sustainability, done right, is valuable for people to hear. If a company ensures its CSR and ESG information is easily accessible, it equips its customers and stakeholders to make more informed decisions. Since 2022, I’ve seen an increasing amount of reports and articles published about how consumers are prioritising sustainability more than ever.

Greenwashing is about breaking trust. If your stakeholders and audience see your company's sustainability communications as exaggerated or unsubstantiated, there is a loss of credibility. The pressure is on businesses to rise to the challenge and provide leadership in tackling climate change and other environmental and social issues. Nowadays, choosing the “sweeping it under the carpet” approach to sustainability is perilous.

Top Tips for Communicating Sustainability in Contract Catering


My role is to manage the marketing projects at Fooditude, a delivered catering company for workplaces. We work with lots of facilities and workplace managers and our sustainability often tops the agenda when they evaluate our service. Since I joined in 2020, I’ve learnt a thing or two about truthfully reflecting sustainability progress, challenges and ambitions. Much of what I have learnt over the years can be applied to communications for professionals working in facilities.

Here’s what I recommend to communicate your sustainability progress, challenges and ambitions:


Getting the Right Accreditations

Taking the effort to collect sustainability data, such as energy usage, and sharing your findings is great for transparency. However, finding an external professional body to report on your sustainability progress carries greater authority.

One of Fooditude’s leading accreditors is Planet Mark, which verifies its carbon footprint and helps demonstrate that emission reductions align with the UN Sustainable Development Goals. When reporting our CSR to clients and stakeholders, I quote directly from these reports to substantiate my claims.


Collaborate with Suppliers

The organisations you choose to work with are part of your environmental impact. For Fooditude and facilities management, suppliers are key to driving positive change. We can all contribute to an ethical and sustainable supply chain by carefully choosing who we source from. The success stories of sourcing well should be included in your communications and reporting.

For example, the chefs at Fooditude incorporate produce from Angry Monk into our menus. This supplier rescues surplus veg and fruit from New Spitalfields Market from being discarded as food waste. Furthermore, Angry Monk sends Fooditude reports with information about the overall weight of the surplus produce we’ve saved. I use this data to create signage at our client canteens to promote Fooditude’s food waste savings:



Picture: an example of one of Fooditude's client posters demonstrating food savings. It shows a cartoon-style graphic of a walrus and states that Fooditude uses 1,142kg of surplus vegetables each month on average (the weight of a walrus). Image Credit: Fooditude


Getting the right information from suppliers can help raise your profile as a progressive business or department. Trustworthy data received from suppliers can be used to back up your sustainability claims - and avoid greenwashing.


Review, Review Again and Then Once More

When I publish content about Fooditude’s sustainability, I check to make sure I’ve accurately reported the truth about the sustainability of Fooditude’s operation. But I’ve made mistakes in the past, and I’ve learnt from them.

In September 2022, Fooditude hired Anouk Dijkman to the team, who has been a huge help in ensuring Fooditude’s communications steer well clear of greenwashing. Here’s what I’ve learnt working alongside Fooditude’s sustainability manager:

  • Create an internal "to-do" checklist to establish a process that ensures your team avoids greenwashing. This resource will help you ensure that you've correctly referenced, reviewed and related your content to critical issues. Need some inspiration? The UK government has a The Green Claims Code checklist to base your own on.
  • Look for information outside of your business. For example, the Fooditude team often refers to the UN's Sustainable Development Goals, as well as the sustainable foodservice framework by our partners at Food Made Good. Both these resources help to keep our communications aligned to credible information. Our World In Data is also a useful resource for sourcing reliable sustainability data.
  • Create an easily accessible section on your company's website or internal hub that shares its CSR data and reports. Not only does this demonstrate transparency to stakeholders, but it also makes it easier for your team to get into good habits when referencing your company's CSR.
  • Last but not least, don't rush! Get multiple people within your team to review any sustainability communications before they go out. We are all susceptible to missing mistakes. The more eyes you get on the copy, the better the chance you can iron out inaccuracies or over-embellishments.


Don't Believe the Hype


Customers, stakeholders and employees will no longer be fooled by unsubstantiated hype from companies’ CSR claims. However, if your company is rising to the challenges and offering sustainable solutions, it isn’t greenwashing to share your success. In fact, doing so could inspire others to take sustainable action.

That being said, letting your audience know where you still need to improve sustainability is a good way to be transparent. As long as you back up your acknowledgement with a plan of action, most people will find an honest approach refreshing.


Picture: Image Credit: Image by Planet Tracker


Greenwashing is only the tip of the iceberg. A recent report by The Planet Tracker uncovered other ways that sustainability can be miscommunicated, from greenshifting to greenhushing. The more I discover about sustainable communications, the more daunting it can seem.

However, there’s comfort in the fact that we’re all in it together. As long as we set ourselves the goal of being transparent in how we talk about our CSR - we begin a dialogue in which we can build a more responsible approach to catering, facilities management and business. After all - feedback isn’t something to be feared, but an opportunity to find out where we can improve. 

Picture: a photograph of a group of people filling plates with food from a buffet. Image Credit: Fooditude

Article written by James Ricketts | Published 21 February 2023


Related Articles

The Four Workplace Sustainability Angles

A new report commissioned by Moneypenny and WORKTECH Academy has identified four different types of corporate approaches to sustainability, to help businesses establish...

 Read Full Article
Data-Based Platform Helps to Quantify ESG

ESG risk management provider Alcumus has launched a first of its kind, standards-based ESG product solution for businesses. This comes as the UK Chancellor sets new...

 Read Full Article
Greenhushing and How to Avoid it in Business

ThisWeekinFM Partner Planet Mark explains how greenhushing can have the same adverse effect on an organisation as greenwashing.  The crackdown on greenwashing by...

 Read Full Article
More Single-use Plastics to be Banned

Disposable plastic items including cutlery, plates and polystyrene are to be banned in England, as a result of the proposal put to consultation last year. The...

 Read Full Article
Why Do We Need a Menopause Ambassador?

A new report from the Women and Equalities Committee calls for a Menopause Ambassador to provide support and guidance for the workplace. The cross-party House of...

 Read Full Article
Sustainability Tool Launches 2022 Employee Diversity Benchmarking Survey

The Sustainability Tool, a software application designed to help organisations and their supply chains measure and monitor their sustainability performance, has launched...

 Read Full Article
EU Sets New Rules For Tackling Corporate Greenwashing

From 2024, large companies will need to publicly disclose information on the way they operate and manage social and environmental risks.   Watch the...

 Read Full Article
Festival of Sustainable Business 2022 – Mini Highlights Reel

ThisWeekinFM attended Bristol’s Paintworks for The Festival of Sustainable Business 2022, finding out about different approaches that can future-proof our...

 Read Full Article
Harrods’ Facilities Team Achieves Paper Towel Sustainability

Harrods, the Knightsbridge luxury department store, has solved one of its biggest FM challenges by diverting tonnes of its used paper hand towels from general...

 Read Full Article
Beehives Aren’t the Answer in Cities to Boost Bees and Biodiversity

Beekeeping is an increasingly popular way for city-based businesses to demonstrate their commitment to promoting biodiversity, but as Alison Benjamin...

 Read Full Article