November 24th, there was a discussion section on putting accountability into accounting. As the discussion was commented on before by thecynicaloptimist, I will discuss the aspect of discussion that most struck me: Greenwashing. Greenwashing undermines actual attempts to save the environment. The main issue I see is that greenwashing is turning environmental accountability into a trend. Professor Cho talked about companies that were on the top 100 toxic companies list, yet who still had the support of their consumers because of the way they advertised their company. Their websites were appealing and showed a positive face, but they are still the companies with the greatest negative impact, if they are on “the list”. In addition there are the awards for best sustainability report, which are not always verified or audited. Is awareness of this trend prevalent enough to the consumer? Not for all consumers if they are attracted by the company advertising and not the company’s actions. However it is the consumer’s duty to look into which companies truly merit our support. Should these elaborate displays of environmental efforts truly be a facade, when the real situation comes to surface, we would be disinclined to believe environmental efforts are actually successful, thus shortening the lifespan of the “green trend”.
The question still remains how do you put accountability into accounting. It appears to me that rules would need to be enforced. A proposal was made for an environmental tax on what’s produced, like a Pigovian tax. Perhaps an environmental tax may put it into the minds of producers that being efficient in reducing environmental impact is serious. Another comment had been made that students in the school do have the idea that being green is just a business trend to get access to the market. This further reinforces the idea that green is just a trend. Educating the masses that greening products is more than another business ploy that will work better or worse than another method would help accountability. If environmental accountability were a duty, and not a tool there would be fewer alternatives to this duty and it would be thought of in earnest. I believe this educational process is already taken place just by the fact that this comment was brought up, and the fact that we are currently undertaking environmental courses now.