Category Archives: business

What Is Greenwashing?

What Is Greenwashing?
By Carlyann Edwards,

You’ve probably heard of whitewashing, defined as the glossing over or covering up of scandalous information through a biased presentation of facts. But greenwashing isn’t as well known. It occurs when a company or organization spends more time and money claiming to be “green” through advertising and marketing than actually implementing business practices that minimize environmental impact. Environmentalist Jay Westerveld coined the term in 1986 in a critical essay inspired by the irony of the “save the towel” movement in hotels.
Origins of greenwashing

The idea of greenwashing emerged in a period when most consumers received their news from television, radio and print media, and didn’t have the luxury of fact-checking in the way we do today. In the mid-1980s, oil company Chevron commissioned a series of expensive television and print ads to broadcast its environmental dedication. But while the infamous The People Do campaign ran, Chevron was violating the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and spilling oil into wildlife refuges.

Chevron was far from the only corporation making outrageous claims. In 1991, chemical company DuPont announced its double-hulled oil tankers with ads featuring marine animals prancing in chorus to Beethoven’s “Ode to Joy”. It turned out the company was the largest corporate polluter in the U.S. that year.

Greenwashing has changed over the last 20 years, but it’s certainly still around. As the world increasingly embraces the pursuit of greener practices, corporate actors face an influx of litigation surrounding misleading environmental claims.

In February of 2017, Walmart paid $1 million to settle greenwashing claims that alleged the nation’s largest retailer sold plastics that were misleadingly touted as environmentally responsible. California state law bans the sale of plastics labeled as “compostable” or “biodegradable,” as environmental officials have determined such claims are misleading without disclaimers about how quickly the product will biodegrade in landfill.

Even the water industry tries to overrepresent its greenness. How many plastic bottles have you seen with colorful images of rugged mountains, pristine lakes and flourishing wildlife printed on their labels? Arrowhead promotes its Eco-Slim cap and Eco-Shape bottle while claiming, “Mother Nature is our muse.”

“The core theme has stayed the same,” said Philip Beere, founder of sustainability content marketing company g Communications. “The No. 1 violation is embellishing the benefit of the product or service.”

Beere said he believes greenwashing is rarely caused by malicious plots to deceive, but is more frequently the result of overenthusiasm, and it’s easy to see why marketers are enthusiastic. Sixty-six percent of consumers would spend more on a product if it comes from a sustainable brand, according to Nielsen’s Global Corporate Sustainability Report, a figure that jumps to 72 percent among millennials.
Brainwash or Greenwash?

With the belief that consumer demand for sustainability is the frontier of our transition to a greener, fairer and smarter global economy, Futerra’s 2015 Selling Sustainability Report offers 10 basic rules for avoiding greenwashing.

Fluffy language: Words or terms with no clear meaning (e.g., “eco-friendly”)
Green products vs. dirty company: Efficient light bulbs made in a factory that pollutes rivers
Suggestive pictures: Images that indicate an (unjustified) green impression (e.g., flowers blooming from exhaust pipes)
Irrelevant claims: Emphasizing one tiny green attribute when everything else is un-green
Best in class: Declaring you are slightly greener than the rest, even if the rest are pretty terrible
Just not credible: “Eco-friendly” cigarettes, anyone? “Greening” a dangerous product doesn’t make it safe.
Gobbledygook: Jargon and information that only a scientist could check or understand
Imaginary friends: A label that looks like a third-party endorsement … except it’s made up
No proof: It could be right, but where’s the evidence?
Outright lying: Totally fabricated claims or data

There are plenty of wonderful companies telling their environmental stories to the world, and even some who aren’t that should be. The incidence of “pure greenwash,” purposeful untruths or impacts of products, is not that prominent. However, there’s a lot out there that gets close. Beere describes the buzzwords commonly used to greenwash as a “slippery slope” and advises any company ready to go down it to invest in educating their marketers.

“Eco-friendly,” “organic,” “natural” and “green” are just some examples of the widely used labels that can be confusing and misleading to consumers. If you’re ready to slap some grass on your logo, be transparent with customers about your company’s practices and have information readily available to back it up.

One example of transparency is activist outdoor clothing retailer Patagonia. Unlike most companies, Patagonia doesn’t sugarcoat its use of chemicals or the fact that it leaves a footprint. The company’s sustainability mission is described as a “struggle to become a responsible company.”

“We can’t pose Patagonia as the model of a responsible company,” the website reads. “We don’t do everything a responsible company can do, nor does anyone else we know. But we can tell you how we came to realize our environmental and social responsibilities, and then began to act on them.”

Do your best to tell your sustainability story and avoid greenwashing. After all, we all know how costly a trip to the cleaners can be.

The End of a Controversial Era: Is the Open Office Dying?

The End of a Controversial Era: Is the Open Office Dying?
By Sammi Caramela,

Over the past decade, many modern offices have transitioned from private to open, with a floorplan free of cubicles or closed workspaces, and lined with shared tables. According to an infographic by Sage on open office plans, 80 percent of U.S. businesses implement this type of layout, including Apple, Google and Facebook.

Open offices can be a great setup for many companies, depending on the structure of their team and the nature of their work. A more collaborative workforce, for instance, is typically more successful in this environment than an independent one.

Like any office structure, there are pros and cons to the open office. According to Flame Schoeder, ICF-credentialed life coach, success in this layout depends on the type of worker.

“I’ve noticed that it is hardest on introverts, those with sensitive nervous systems and those who tie their self-worth to the status of a ‘corner office,'” she said.

However, on the other hand, the open office breeds more collaboration and stronger bonds, Schoeder said.

“This increases everyone’s innate sense of accountability in their culture, which can make it easier to solve problems and get work done,” she added. “There can also be a more casual connection, and therefore more authentic, between bosses and employees.”

The open office has become the norm for most businesses, in an effort to create a more inclusive, cost-effective workplace. But this layout has also received backlash, with many workers feeling less productive and less valued – and more insecure and distracted.

In fact, a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Work, Environment, & Health found that “employees working in small or medium-sized open-plan offices consistently reported lower levels of job satisfaction, subjective well-being, and ease of interaction with co-workers than employees working in cellular or shared-room offices.”

Additionally, Sage reported that in open offices, productivity is reduced by 15 percent, sick days are increased by 62 percent and distractions are increased by 54 percent, impacting even the highest-performing employees. These findings show an alarming disconnect between preferred office layout and employee efficiency and happiness.

Does that mean the open office is dead? Not necessarily.

Despite its downsides, the open office plan is still valued by many leaders. However, it certainly has its issues – and they’re worth factoring into your decision.

“Each organization … needs to think long and hard about whether [an open office] works with their culture and what they hope to achieve before committing to it,” said Schoeder. “It’s a commitment of more than just construction costs. Whatever is in your culture will be amplified by taking down the walls.”

There’s much controversy regarding the workplace of the future, with many workplace experts predicting an end to open offices, and others claiming it will remain the preferred (and most affordable) option. There’s no way to know for sure; but if the workforce does shift its preferred office plan, it will be for good reason.

How to Stay Productive in a Loud Office

How to Stay Productive in a Loud Office
By Sammi Caramela,

Have you ever had to reread a passage over and over because someone near you was speaking too loudly for you to concentrate? Or perhaps you’ve tried (and failed) to write a paper in the presence of a chatty friend. If you’ve been in situations like this, you know that noise can greatly affect performance.

Productivity dips by up to 66 percent if you can hear someone talking while reading or writing, according to a TED blog post. This is especially evident in the workplace: If your office is open and filled with loud workers, you probably don’t get as much work done as you could if it were quieter.

“Noise and interruptions definitely affect productivity and increases employees’ stress, increasing blood pressure and heart rate,” said Dr. Jude Miller Burke, workplace psychologist and author of “The Adversity Advantage: Turn Your Childhood Hardship into Career and Life Success” (Wisdom Editions, 2017). “It is the rare individual who can day after day, hour after hour, focus well with a constant hum of background noise.”

It’s easier to focus when you can hear your own thoughts over the cacophony of an entire company. But sometimes, you don’t have a choice – you’re trapped in a rowdy space and expected to get your work done regardless.

So how do you confront the issue?
1. Wear earplugs or headphones.

Lynn Taylor, workplace expert and author of “Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant: How to Manage Childish Boss Behavior and Thrive in Your Job” (John Wiley & Sons, 2008), noted that earplugs are one of the best options for workers who are easily distracted. They drown out background noise and help the brain concentrate.

You can also play music through your headphones, Taylor said. Depending on how sensitive you are to noise, mellow tunes can actually help the mind stay on task. Create a playlist that suits you and listen to it when the office is particularly loud. You might even find yourself feeling more inspired or happier while listening to music.
2. Locate a quiet room.

Often, open workspaces are to blame for frequent conversations and sometimes even personal phone calls. While the layout might encourage collaboration, it can hinder productivity, said Taylor. If you can’t focus enough to get your work done, see if you can locate a quiet space that is not in use to complete particularly intensive projects.

“Find a conference room or empty office that you know isn’t off limits [to use] as a safe haven when you absolutely need quiet time,” said Taylor.

Additionally, certain times of the day might be louder than others. You can plan your assignments according to the volume of the office.

“Keep all your strategic and deep-thinking projects to hours of the day when it’s most quiet,” said Taylor. “For example, handle more transactional activities when the noise level is higher.”

If there is a particular day where the volume is at its peak, more thorough tasks can be scheduled in the separate room. Even if you have to share the space with another worker or two, it will be less noisy than the entire office.
3. Confront the issue.

When all else fails, be upfront. Executives especially should step up, taking aside those who are causing the distractions and being honest with them before it gets out of hand.

“It is up to the leaders in the organization to set the culture for the department, and it is best if the manager can set very clear expectations on unnecessary noise,” said Burke. “Initiate dialogue each week about the noise level and encourage people to discuss it openly at staff meetings. Set the expectation that if someone is being extra loud with personal phone calls, jokes or daily gossip, that you should ask that person directly to be less noisy.”

If you feel uncomfortable confronting a co-worker, you should confide in a supervisor, explaining that the noise issue isn’t personal, but you can’t perform to your highest potential because of it. Burke recommends explaining that with clear direction from them, the whole office could be more productive.

“Maybe it would be worthwhile to discuss the noise level and creative solutions in a staff meeting,” she added. “You may be surprised as to the unique solutions that might come up that could be helpful.”