Reflection: Are We Seeing Green but Ending up in the Red

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.

One Response to “Reflection: Are We Seeing Green but Ending up in the Red”

  1. patagonia says:

    I also find the green washing issue very interesting, and your comments made me think of a related issue; transparency in environmental advertising and labeling. When it comes to eco-labels on products or environmental- friendly food guides you really need to do your own research to see what is sustainable and what is not. For example, the Seafood Choice Guide provides a list of fish and seafood that are environmentally sustainable and therefore good consumer choices. However, certain fish (namely tuna, swordfish and other large species with decreasing wild populations) and certain catch methods (aquaculture, trawl, etc.) are included in the Seafood Guide, which are not always sustainable. The consumer needs to be critical and curious; we need to take some responsibility and ask important questions such as: How is this eco-label or sustainability guide funded? Are all forms of aquaculture or logging, etc. sustainable? Is this an international or country –wide or company-wide labeling system? It is unfortunate that this is the case, that there is not always accountability in accounting, but it is the truth. However, I do have faith in the eco-labeling movement, and there examples of well established, transparent and universally accepted labels. The Fair-Trade label especially comes to mind, as it incorporates environmental sustainability into conditions of fair labor and trade. It is a growing movement, one that needs to be kept on track by accountability, transparency and curious, resourceful consumers.