Green shoots everywhere - but is it a clear run to the horizon?

As the pundits keep telling us, we’re living in an age of change. With bills rising and resources getting more scarce, even doubters of man-made climate change are beginning to see the point of insulating, buying more efficient appliances, and even generating their own energy. Even the really big companies that sell you energy are trying to help you use, and spend, less.

And public interest in greener products and services is growing. Consumer spending in the green sector has topped £6bn a year, according to the Cooperative Bank. Our Energy Saving Trust Recommended label provides a guide for consumers, and every product it sits on is rigorously tested.

Many businesses come to the Energy Saving Trust to make sure they’ve got their facts straight, are selling their products accurately, and that they’re giving their customers the best possible advice.

But energy-efficiency claims can be hard for the lay person to prove. The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) and DEFRA are working to tackle inaccurate selling in the burgeoning green economy. Earlier this month, DEFRA issued the Green Milestone, their new guidance on green claims:

‘Improving and communicating environmental performance can enhance consumer perceptions of brands’, it says. ‘Using an environmental strategy that can build confidence in brands through claims or messages that are consistent with consumers’ perception of the environmental challenges or practices associated with it.’

The ASA have gone even further in their campaign to make the sustainability industry more accountable for what they tell consumers. They rate the topic as one of immediate concern and have compiled a ‘hall of shame’ on the complaints they’ve upheld. 

Even with new guidelines, of course mistakes can still be made in good faith, and messages can become accidentally mangled in the mechanisms of larger firms. Few companies would consciously want to ‘greenwash’ these days – not least because, if you mess up, your mistake is likely to end up on Facebook or Twitter.

With all of this bubbling in the background, on March 30th we’re hosting a free event to discuss green marketing and the importance of getting it right. It’s about trust, accreditation and making those green claims ring true. Selling Green: Delivering what you promise will feature a panel of leading industry figures, including Phil Rumbol (the man behind those Cadbury drumming gorilla ads, now setting up his own agency).

 The event is taking place at the Commonwealth Club in London – and, just because we’re so hip, it’s also being  live streamed online – so you can join in wherever you are. To register, and send a question to the panel, click here.