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FTSE 100- it’s all green wash says opinion formers poll 26.10.07

FTSE 100 companies are going green to protect their reputation and under pressure from consumers, rather than concern for the environment, according to a UK-wide survey of opinion formers by Chatsworth Communications.

The Chatsworth ’FOOTSIE 100 green washers and green winners’ survey polled UK national and trade journalists, sustainability experts and political groups, in the first major survey of its kind to measure the perception of which UK companies are leading the way on sustainability issues, and which are more concerned with image over substance.

The results reveal increasing cynicism as to whether UK business is leading on environmental issues out of a genuine desire to protect the environment or if this is just greenwash aimed at creating an eco-friendly corporate image.

- The main motivation for UK companies to adopt green policies is to protect their reputation (27%) followed by consumer pressure (20%) and good business sense (18%)

- Only 1% believe genuine concern for the environment is the key driver for UK companies to adopt green policies

- Marks & Spencer (45%) and HSBC voted the top green winners – the companies making the most genuine green effort

- BP, Tesco and British Airways considered to be most guilty of ‘greenwash’ by respondents

- BP, Tesco and Marks & Spencer have the highest profile and most effective green publicity campaigns in terms of coverage

- Majority of respondents (75%) believe it is better for big business to own up where they are not green and show willing to make any changes

Nick Murray-Leslie, Director, Chatsworth Communications comments: “The views of the people polled influence millions of consumers across the UK, who will ultimately vote with the purchasing decisions they make.”

“Green-fatigue is setting in and companies need to rethink the way they communicate their sustainability programmes. Many opinion formers appear to be losing faith in the real intentions of UK corporates to meet their sustainable objectives and many detect more than a faint whiff of insincerity from the FTSE 100 and its commitment to sustainable practices.”

“Perceptions as to the sincerity and effectiveness of corporate green campaigns are closely linked to sector. No matter how hard oil companies or airlines try to improve their green credentials, their efforts are always likely be perceived as greenwash, as they are ultimately still big net polluters.”

“It clearly isn’t enough to be making the right noises if they’re not backed up by what are perceived to be genuine, positive actions. Some companies are viewed by the commentators we surveyed as having operations which will always be incompatible with a sustainable agenda, irrespective of how these companies try to argue otherwise.”

“The amount being invested in terms of marketing and public relations on sustainability could probably buy you a large wind farm. Trusted companies are those which are perceived to be green on the inside, not just on the outside and their messages on green issues are just part of the work they are doing across their entire operations and not an end in themselves.”

“We hope the results of this survey will provide a timely reminder to UK business that their commitment to the environment needs to be sustained and genuine to convince the public and the opinion formers who influence them.”

Peter Shield

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