Trust is the bedrock of business, from the C-Suite to retail. We live in uncertain, rapidly changing times, with trust in institutions at measurable lows. From Forbes:

“People are looking for and still desire institutions that strive for the greater good,” explains Katie Thomas, who leads the Kearney Consumer Institute. Businesses build institutional trust on honesty and consistency through transparent messaging and authentically caring about their customers. Because so many other institutions are falling short in these areas, this is where businesses, whether big or small, can pick up the pieces and fill the trust gap.[1]

Business leaders must think on how to earn trust and how to maintain it. In the case of complicated issues such as carbon offsets, this can be a communications challenge. Let’s look at how businesses can ensure customers their offsets are legitimate.

Against Greenwashing

Consumers are rightly skeptical when businesses claim to be doing good for the environment, and major blowback can happen to organizations that don’t properly vet their offsets or cynically make claims they can’t back up. This is “Greenwashing,” defined in Investopedia:

Greenwashing is the process of conveying a false impression or providing misleading information about how a company’s products are more environmentally sound. Greenwashing is considered an unsubstantiated claim to deceive consumers into believing that a company’s products are environmentally friendly.[2]

Consumers have become aware of this, with entire industries falling under intense scrutiny for willing or negligent claims that amount to a kind of fraud. Fashion is particularly notable:

Most fashion brands are “addicted to greenwashing”, says a new report. Some of the worst offenders making false or misleading claims include H&M, ASOS, and M&S. The report also called out brands for lack of transparency, among them Lululemon, Patagonia, and Burberry. Released by the nonprofit Changing Markets Foundation, the new report finds as many as 59% of all green claims by European and U.K. fashion brands are misleading. Despite pledges to reduce their environmental footprint, a large majority of brands are still reliant on fossil fuel-based synthetic fibres. Some of them are also failing to show credible information about how they plan to reduce their environmental footprint.

As brands your customers trust, you need to not only educate them, but prove that your efforts are valid and your offsets are verifiable and auditable high quality offsets.

High Quality Offsets Defined

Before you can make a claim to high quality offsets, it’s important to understand what they are. In layman’s terms, high quality offsets are those that would not take place without the initiative of the business involved, and which can be tracked.

In short, companies must acquire verified offsets that consumers can trust, or risk the trap of “greenwashing” or, put bluntly, fraudulent claims of carbon reduction through fake or misleading offsets. Accreditation bureaus verify the authenticity of offsets. These include but aren’t limited to American Carbon Registry (ACR) and Gold Standard. When working to understand offsets, organizations such as these provide excellent resources and solid places to begin. You can also visit Soli’s partner the Climate Remediation Foundation for an overview of offsets.[3]

There can be no “double dipping” and everything must be auditable.

Communicating Authenticy With the Best Possible Offsets

The best way to provide personal offsets to your customers is the most specific and granular. Companies have the power to provide individual serial numbers from fractionalized carbon offset tons. With this method, consumers can personally track the pounds of carbon they have kept out of the atmosphere through their purchases and loyalty to your organization.

Soli is the only business capable of doing this through our patented Solution. Soli converts:

… corporate sustainability into targeted, ROI-driven marketing solutions. We turn corporate and consumer transactions into a sustainability-based currency that can add value to any product, service or marketing program by making them greener. Soli’s patented technology breaks up bulk carbon offsets into fractional bits that can be used as incentives and rewards in marketing programs. This makes customers feel that they each can truly help save the planet, while also assisting brands in meeting their carbon neutrality and ESG goals.[4]

A hypothetical. Let’s imagine a conversation with a potential retail fashion consumer:

Consumer: “I’m in the market for a sweatshirt. I like this one.”

Retailer: “Great, let me ring you up.”

Consumer: “Not so fast. Climate and the environment is my top concern, next to price and quality. This sweatshirt is not cheap. But I am willing to pay more for a product if you can assure me it is produced in a sustainable fashion.”

Retailer: “Great, yes. Our products are produced sustainably and we can back that up with evidence.”

Consumer: “How do I know your practices are truly sustainable? How can I be sure?”

Retailer: “Our carbon offsets are verifiable and high quality. We have a program called Soli you can use to track the exact amount of verified carbon offsets your purchases contribute toward.”

Consumer: “Wow. In that case, I’ll take two and sign me up to your mailing list.”

Whether you work with Soli or not, the key in these conversations is to understand the lingo and to be able to truly back up your claims. Trust is hard to earn and easy to lose, and to avoid accusations of greenwashing, organizations must learn not only how to secure verifiable offsets but how to properly communicate to consumers and to back up their claims.

For more on this topic, see our other blog posts in the “Carbon Offsets” series: How Verified Carbon Offsets Help Companies Achieve Carbon Neutrality and Inspire Brand Loyalty and Carbon Offsets Explained.

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