Greenwashing – what is it and why should businesses avoid it?

As the world shifts towards a more sustainable future, consumers are opting for greener alternatives. And a growing pressure to ‘get green’ means that businesses are desperate to show their values align with environmental issues. This can sometimes result in ‘greenwashing’.

Without the correct knowledge, businesses risk prioritising superficially appealing demands to satisfy conscious consumerism. But as businesses around the world pledge to sustainability, indications of greenwashing can often go unnoticed.

Persistent greenwashing can undermine the importance of sustainability. As a consumer, trying to identify eco-friendly brands can be challenging enough. And with added greenwashed businesses, this task can feel overwhelming and next to impossible.

So, what is greenwashing and how can businesses avoid it?

What is greenwashing?

Coined in 1986 by environmentalist Jay Westerveld, ‘greenwashing’ refers to misinformation provided by a business to falsely present itself as environmentally friendly.

More often than not, greenwashing happens due to a lack of knowledge. While sustainability continues to become a more prominent topic of conversation, so does the pressure to comply. This means companies are increasingly keen to exhibit their sustainable credentials, even if they don’t have environmental expertise.

Greenwashing often distracts from significant environmental issues such as climate change and pollution. It can also misdirect environmentally conscious customers towards dis-ingenuine products. This is because it can be hard to differentiate between well intentioned businesses with those that are performatively green. ‘The six sins of greenwashing’, is a list of indicators that can help consumers spot a business that has been greenwashed.

The six sins of greenwashing

The six sins of greenwashing

No proof: Claims made about a lessening of a businesses environmental impact are not verified by third party certifications.

Vagueness: Broad, insubstantial or convoluted claims such as ‘all natural’, ‘made with recycled materials’ or ‘eco-friendly’, with no further information.

The hidden trade-off: Marketing a product or service as ‘green’ by a narrow definition that disregards other environmental impacts. An example of this was fast food chain McDonald’s switch to paper straws. Although consumers may have welcomed this change initially, it was soon revealed that these straws were still unrecyclable.

Irrelevance: Although the claim may be true, it is unrelated to the company or product.

Lesser of two evils: Touting one good sustainable aspect of the business while ignoring greater environmental harm.

Fibbing: The sin of outright lying, this was seen very clearly in the case of the Volkswagen scandal of 2015. The car company admitted to cheating emissions tests by fitting defeat devices to vehicles in question. This allowed the company to use proprietary software to detect emission tests and in turn reduce levels. Whilst they were knowingly greenwashing their products, in reality they were releasing 40x the permitted limit of nitrogen oxide pollutants.

How can businesses avoid greenwashing?

In the run up to the UK’s net zero commitments, it is within everyone’s interest for businesses to become truly sustainable. Switching to renewables, incorporating low carbon tech and educating staff are some of the ways that businesses can avoid accidental greenwashing.

To promote a sustainable ethos, a business must first achieve sustainability goals. Providing customers with complete transparency not only reassures them of your reliability, but also allows for a wider range of potential clients.

Delivering real change is essential in moving towards a green future. While greenwashing allows businesses to pull in revenue in the short term, it will have serious consequences further down the line.

How can EIC help?

At EIC we prioritise sustainability and transparency. Our expert team are on hand to help your business become as green as possible.

Years of experience allow us to identify the best areas of savings for your business. We believe the future is sustainable and we are dedicated to getting our clients on the right path towards it.

Get in touch to hear how we can help you begin your sustainability journey.

Controlling your energy bills: A guide to non-commodity costs

The cost of electricity has been fluctuating considerably in the last few years. From the highpoint in September 2018 wholesale prices had fallen by roughly 60% by 2020. During the lockdown they started to rise again. Despite the temporary drop energy bills have consistently gone up. The reason for this is a rise in non-commodity, or ‘third-party’, costs.

What are non-commodity costs?

Essentially the amount we pay for energy includes three different expenses. The first is the wholesale price of the actual amount of power we use (the commodity). Secondly, we have the cost of transmission and distribution across the network. And finally a variety of government levy and taxes. The energy companies pay these fees and pass the cost onto their customers.

In 2011 non-commodity costs accounted for about 36% of energy prices. In 2021 this has risen to 64% and is predicted to reach 70% to 80% over the next decade.

Here is our guide to the different types of non-commodity costs.

Transmission and distribution costs

Each supplier incurs expenses to run and maintain the power network. These vary from provider to provider and depend largely on the type of power plant. For example, solar and wind generators are less consistent than gas or nuclear power. With a move towards renewable energy, the cost of balancing the system is likely to increase. The main expenses are:

Government levy and taxes

These taxes fund various government initiatives and green energy programs.

Covid-19 and the energy market

Some non-commodity costs are set at the beginning of each year. Others are subject to change throughout the year. In simple terms, the non-commodity charge is equal to the cost of providing energy to the nation divided by how much we use. The more we need to use, the lower the cost of non-commodity and the higher the wholesale price.

During lockdown, our use of electricity dropped significantly across the UK. Following weeks of high winds in January 2020, the network had a surplus of power and a far lower demand. This resulted in costs of nearly £50m to balance the network and sell off spare energy at a loss on the European market. This is one of the rare occasions where it would have been cheaper long term to leave our lights on.

The lockdown also affected the FiT and CfD levy costs. These are reviewed quarterly and significant changes in generation or demand of renewable energy have a knock-on effect on how much we pay in taxes to support the industry. It’s not all bad news though, lower emissions mean we will end up paying less towards the climate change tax.

Controlling your expenses

With the increases in non-commodity costs set to continue it is important to keep an eye on your bills. Proper monitoring and tracking monthly changes will ensure you aren’t overpaying. In our experience, nearly 20% of all utility bills include a mistake.

With such turbulence in the market, there is less control over the wholesale cost of electricity. What can be controlled is how we use energy.  At EIC we can help you plan your usage around annual Triad periods. This can make a significant difference to your energy bills. Our daily traffic light warnings will help you avoid any unnecessary fluctuations and keep costs low. Our clients have saved on average £180,000 on TNUoS charges.

Whether you prefer the stability of a fixed price or the control of a flexible contract we can help. Setting up an energy contract can be a long process, especially if you want a good price. We have the experience to negotiate with your provider to make sure you are not paying more than you should be. Our service is tailored to your needs. To find out what we can do for your business get in touch today.

Earth Day: 5 things businesses can do to celebrate this year

After months of isolation and wintry weather, spring is finally in full bloom and the UK is reopening again. With this recent freedom has come a renewed appreciation for friends, family, and the great outdoors. This, and the rise in climate change awareness, make this Earth Day more important for businesses than ever.

Environmental awareness days are often marked with a social media post and quickly forgotten. But businesses that embrace real sustainability all year can enjoy significant financial and reputational benefits. As the UK transitions to a net zero economy, this will only become truer.

Companies with ethical and environmental strategies are already favoured by consumers and investors. This makes a sustainable strategy essential for securing future funding as well as growing and maintaining a loyal customer base. Not to mention, energy efficiency and clean energy solutions can provide valuable savings to facilitate further stability along the way.

This Earth Day, why not use the momentum to embark on your sustainable journey? Here are a few ways to celebrate the planet and ensure a green future for your business.

1.  Make a commitment

Companies and communities across the UK are pledging to reach net zero emissions by as early as 2030. This is largely due to recent shifts in policy that have made carbon monitoring and reporting an inevitable part of business practices. Climate-related risks are also beginning to play an important, even mandatory, role in investment decisions. This means large companies will have no choice but to reduce their environmental footprint.

What better day to announce your businesses commitment to net zero than Earth Day? EIC can help your organisation navigate the path to net zero from your initial carbon footprinting onwards. Our team of energy specialists streamline complex energy admin, carbon compliance, and give guidance on clean energy solutions. We go beyond what is mandatory to integrate sustainability into the core of your business.

2.  Embrace small changes

If your business is not ready to commit to a net zero target, there are numerous small changes you can make to save money and reduce your environmental footprint. Simply switching to LED lights can result in significant costs savings, especially for big energy users with extensive office or retail space. This and other efficiency solutions offer emission reductions that will prepare your organisation for future carbon reporting requirements.

Waste management is another important small but impactful change, as is water efficiency. Taking control of your utilities and ensuring there is as little unnecessary waste as possible is the first step towards sustainability.

3.  Switch to green energy

As companies and councils continue to join the race to net zero, energy suppliers are offering more green procurement options. There are different types of energy contracts in various shades of green, and choosing one can be a complex process.

If you are taking this Earth Day to switch to greener energy, EIC can help. Our procurement specialists can help you choose the contract that is right for your organisation and your net zero goals.

4.  Get smarter

Data gathering and analytics is the future of energy management. Smart energy monitoring and building control systems identify areas of inefficiency and waste. And enable you to make changes in real time. This technology is already becoming widely used to help businesses of all sizes control their costs and reduce emissions.

Make a real, impactful change this Earth Day by taking control of your utility usage. Our sister company, t-mac, offers next-generation metering, monitoring and controls solutions. These enable clients to manage their assets and energy consumption in real-time via a single platform.

“By working with t-mac we were able to identify that our immediate solution was to scrutinise the use of in-store equipment to save energy and carbon. Using t-mac’s expert advice and assistance we were able to implement a control strategy and immediately benefited from the energy reduction. To date, we’ve chalked up a substantial reduction in energy usage and carbon emissions across the 1,600 UK branches. We’re confident that the system will continue to be a winner, saving carbon and cost for years to come.” – Nick Eshelby, Director of Property Services at Ladbrokes

5.  Make it a team effort

Making structural changes to your energy portfolio is key. But genuine sustainability requires action on every level. Getting employees involved can help your sustainable efforts and also boost morale.

In August 2020, Reuters commissioned Censuswide to survey 2,000 UK office workers about workplace culture and environmental ethics. Of those surveyed, almost two-thirds (65%) said that they were more likely to work for a company with strong environmental policies.

This proves the rising interest in climate change and social equity is impacting peoples expectations of their employers. And as younger generations enter the workforce, this will only become more prevalent.

This Earth Day, ensure employees are aware of your commitment to environmental action by getting them involved in your sustainable business strategy. One way to do this is through EIC’s staff energy awareness training, which teaches employees how to reduce energy usage. By helping your employees understand how they can improve energy efficiency at work, they’ll learn how to cut their usage and costs at home too, which is great news for the environment.

How can EIC help?

At EIC we celebrate Earth Day every day by leading clients towards a more sustainable energy future. Our in-house team can guide you through energy monitoring, carbon footprinting, green procurement and compliance legislation. Our aim is to provide you with holistic energy management and sustainable solutions that build a green and resilient foundation for your organisation’s future.

To learn how our net zero services can help your business, contact us at EIC today.

It’s not too early to start thinking about ESOS phase 3

The deadline for the third phase of ESOS is on 5 December 2023, but it is never too early to start your carbon reporting process. Although working on a distant deadline may not seem like a priority, planning ahead may save considerable time and money.

Regulated by The Environment Agency, the mandatory compliance scheme aims to ensure that big energy users are working as efficiently as possible. Businesses that qualify for the scheme must have compliance plans in place to avoid fines and civil penalties.

The first step towards assessing an organisation’s carbon footprint is to conduct an energy audit. Energy audits assess total consumption within a business including buildings, industrial processes and transport usage. This is also crucial for understanding where a business could save money through energy conservation.

Who qualifies for ESOS?

ESOS is mandatory for large UK organisations that meet one of more of the following criteria:

  • Employ at least 250 people.
  • Have an annual turnover excess of €50 million and an annual balance sheet excess of €43
  • Are part of a corporate group containing a large enterprise.

Businesses that qualify must carry out ESOS assessments every four years. While fines differ from case to case, they can include an immediate £50,000 fine or £500 per day for up to 80 working days. Businesses who refuse to comply also run the risk of having their information published online.

What are the benefits of ESOS?

You may be thinking, why should I start thinking about phase 3 so early? Starting work towards phase 3 now means you are able to explore different options before deciding on the perfect one for your business. Becoming more energy efficient now will also mean environmental and financial benefits in the long term.

The two most significant benefits of ESOS lie in the reduction of carbon emissions and lowering of energy bills. If approached correctly, ESOS could bring benefits for both the business in question and the environment, in the form of cost effective savings.

ESOS has been predicted to deliver a total of £1.6 billion in savings to UK businesses between 2015 and 2030. Some of the most common areas in which savings are found include lighting, air conditioning and metering. EIC can also provide intelligent procurement: further simplifying our client’s energy management and reducing their utility costs.

Putting off compliance plans may also leave you vulnerable to price increases. Phase 1 of the scheme more than 40% of businesses were still not compliant 4 months after the deadline. If this were to happen again, in excess of 2,800 firms would be fined and in turn suppliers would be forced to raise their prices again. By identifying areas of carbon reduction, ESOS can also improve your Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) narrative. While they are separate schemes, information gained from ESOS can be used to manage energy efficiency in annual reports.

How can EIC help with your compliance needs?

Our carbon team have extensive experience with complex compliance legislation and are dedicated to helping you reach deadlines efficiently. Our Lead Assessors and highly trained Auditors are on hand to assist you throughout your compliance process.

We have assisted over 550 clients with their ESOS journey, and in doing so have identified 4.65 million tonnes worth of CO2 savings. This has meant that our clients have avoided approximately £80 million worth of fines over phase 1 and 2.

Whilst balancing other jobs and responsibilities, schemes may seem like a hassle. Fortunately, EIC can help turn that obligation into an opportunity for your organisation.  Get in touch to find out how we can help you start your compliance journey.