How to Start Up: Avoiding Greenwashing

September 20, 2022

I was recently interviewed by Juliet Fallowfield for her podcast How to Start Up. Juliet is the MD & Founder of Fallow, Field & Mason: a PR & Communications consultancy for start-ups that enables you to do your own PR. We had a great chat all about greenwashing, how to avoid it and how founders can authentically implement environmentally friendly processes within their business. I’d love it if you listened to our chat which you can find here. In the meantime, here’s a quick recap of some key points:

Never exaggerate your green claims

It should go without saying that honesty and transparency are key in marketing a sustainable product. But some companies have been caught out for exaggerating their eco claims or implying something is better for the environment than it really is. This can include using jargon or terms that might (intentionally or unintentionally) mislead a customer because they don’t fully understand it. Check the Green Claims Code to ensure none of your claims are misleading or could be misinterpreted.

Lead with your purpose

One of the reasons I love my work is because I’m able to focus my business on what lights me up: raising awareness of how to protect the ocean and our planet. I believe that having a mission-driven or purpose-first business is not only a great way to have a positive impact but also to enjoy your work even more.

In the interests of work-life balance, create boundaries for yourself

For example, I always have an ‘out of office’ on to limit the amount of time I spend on email and to filter out unnecessary communications by answering common questions within my out of office. This also helps to set expectations with clients or PR professionals regarding when they can expect to hear back from me. I also use Zoom and Calendly to manage my time which saves me travel time for meetings. While I do attend some face-to-face events, I’m careful to choose the ones that truly add value to my business.

Connect with other sole traders when you need inspiration or advice

People often think other freelancers in the same niche are competition but I believe the opposite. I love meeting and networking with other likeminded copywriters and PR people. I even have dedicated time for a freelance chatter where other freelancers can book in to have a virtual, no-sales cuppa with me. Think of it like an online water cooler moment. I’ve met so many brilliant business owners this way and via LinkedIn. This network has been fantastic for me. It’s helped me stave off that work-from-home loneliness, given me a place to turn to ask for and give advice, and even lead to work being passed between us.

Don’t be afraid to be honest about parts of your business you wish were more successful 

As I mentioned earlier, transparency is key when it comes to communicating your sustainability journey. That means not only talking about the things that are going well. It’s important to talk about your challenges and stumbling blocks too. Being open to sharing the ‘bad’ bits shows your authenticity and honesty. It could also lead to someone sharing a solution they’ve found when facing the same challenge. We’ll all improve much faster if we’re truly honest about our sustainability journey and share solutions with each other.

Keep a log of all the small green things you do that make a difference

You’d be surprised by how quickly the positive things you do add up. When I started my own business, I decided to make a monthly note on my LinkedIn sharing the positive actions I’d taken that month. I originally did this because I’m a people pleaser and accountability is important to my motivation. I knew if I committed to sharing this progress in public each month, I’d be more likely to keep it up. But I was surprised by another benefit. What felt like small actions over time quickly snowballed to an impact I could be proud of. Looking back at this impact is really motivating for me and means that every step leads to another. The first step is often the hardest – so once you’ve done something, you’re on the way with your sustainability journey. What change will you make first?

I hope you enjoyed this quick roundup and please do check out the How to Start Up series. And if you’re interested in interviewing me on your podcast, do get in touch!

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