Corporate greenwashing is making us less prepared for the real damaging impacts of climate change like flooding and heatwaves, according to the environment regulator.
Emma Howard Boyd, chair of the Environment Agency for England, will say today that a failure to identify greenwashed claims creates false confidence that the climate crisis is being addressed.
The term “greenwash” suggests a company, public body, or other entity is claiming to be more environmentally friendly, or “greener” than it really is.
The claims often appear in marketing or public messaging, wrongly using terms like “sustainable”, “recyclable”, or “eco-friendly”.
Ms Howard Boyd, speaking at the UK Center for Greening Finance and Investment Annual Forum at the Institution of Civil Engineers, will call on businesses to be transparent about their netzero plans.
The outgoing chair, who is also interim chair of the Green Finance Institute, will say businesses are “embedding liability” and “storing up risk for their investors” by giving a false impression they are addressing the climate crisis and the danger is people “won ‘t realize this deception until it is too late.”
She will warn nearly £650bn of public and private infrastructure investment planned over the next eight years will be jeopardized unless increasingly severe climate impacts are taken into account.
Earlier this year, the Bank of England in its first climate stress test told banks to take climate action urgently or face a hit to annual profits of up to 15%.
Last month major global analysis identified an “alarming lack of credibility” in corporate net zero climate promisesand independent advisors warned the government that its current policies will fail to hit net zero.
“The more businesses are transparent about their plans to transition to net zero and prepare for climate shocks”, the easier it is to identify best practice and who is actually delivering on their promises, Ms Howard Boyd is expected to say today.
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She will call for “robust, consistent and trusted data” to achieve climate resilience and nature recovery.
“If we fail to identify and address greenwashing, we allow ourselves false confidence that we are already addressing the causes and treating the symptoms of the climate crisis.”
In one of her final speeches before leaving the Environment Agency in September, Ms Howard Boyd is expected to call for private investment into climate adaptation, saying “just five per cent of climate finance goes towards resilience and virtually none of that comes from the private sector” .
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