Summary of Key Concepts

Key Concepts: Greenwashing

Do not assume that all organizations produce sustainability reports that are entirely greenwashing or entirely candid. The truth is probably somewhere in between those two extremes. Use the tools in this module and the other modules in this set to assess the degree of credibility of information for various elements in a particular report.

Society encourages organizations to be objective about their performance. Therefore, organizations must learn how to provide credible information and avoid greenwashing, but also readers must know how to assess if information is credible to avoid false claims of greenwashing. Various forms of greenwashing can occur:

  • A bad choice of pictures can give the wrong impression about an organization’s report, when most of the information is reliable.
  • An organization may put positive information in the front pages and report negative information farther back in the report.
  • An organization may omit a discussion in its report of an incident that has been widely publicized in the news because it feels that it already has had enough publicity from elsewhere.

Key Concepts: Accuracy

Watch for inaccuracies in sustainability reports. Most are unintentional, but some may create a positive impression that is undeserved.

Inaccuracies can occur from any of the following:

  • Making accidental errors due to inexperience in reporting;
  • Choosing to report selective information that shows the organization in a positive light; and
  • Writing in a vague or ambiguously manner, not being exact.

Key Concepts: Relevance

Look for ways that companies include stakeholders. Companies engage stakeholders for feedback on several topics:

  • readability of the report;
  • report content; and
  • performance improvement.