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Greenwashing Often Stems From Terrible Measurement!

Corporate greenwashing is not always deliberate but can be the result of extremely poor measurement practices in the field of sustainability and ESG, a sustainability expert has said.

Chris Bennett, founder of sustainability services company Evora Global, has highlighted the issue of poor ESG measurement leading to a lack of clarity for many on sustainability issues.

His comments follow recent accusations of greenwashing by the team behind the COP28 president Sultan Al Jaber, whose team have been accused this week of editing the minister’s Wikipedia page in an attempt to greenwash his image.

Bennett said that, in his experience, greenwashing was often partly down to unreliable data leading to overstated sustainability credentials. “In several cases, greenwashing is a deliberate attempt to improve a person or company’s poor reputation in a world increasingly concerned with sustainability,” said Bennett.

“But that’s not the full story. There is also a pervasive problem of poor ESG measurement. Here, a vagueness and lack of clarity around ESG factors contributes to sustainability credentials being overstated by some major corporations,” said Bennett.

“The issue of ESG data measurement is something we’ve identified as part of our annual investor survey, which details responses from investors responsible for $3.3tn in assets, about one third of all the professionally managed real estate investments globally. In our most recent survey, only 11 per cent of these investors said that they were confident in their data quality, a significant drop from previous years."

“Meanwhile, their responses indicated that only 7% of real estate ESG data is automated and that there remains a heavy reliance on third party data. With such unreliable measurement of ESG data, you can see how inaccurate or overly optimistic assumptions can mean that greenwashing occurs somewhat accidentally in the corporate environment."

Bennett’s comments are backed up by a recent survey by The Harris Poll sponsored by Google Cloud. Google’s second annual sustainability survey of 1,476 top-level executives in 16 countries showed that executives are eager for better systems to track their progress.

While six out of 10 executives (59%) admitted to overstating or inaccurately representing their sustainability activities, this was not the whole picture. The results also showed that 87% were looking to incorporate better measurement into their organisations to help make more accurate targets.


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