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What is Greenwashing & CSR in the Hospitality Industry?

Greenwashing is a commonly used term in seminars surrounding environmental issues and sustainability. It actually relates to a tactic used by many commercial kitchen consultants to get people to believe that they are doing more to protect the environment than words can say. This relates to the food and drink sector in many ways, like packaging, ingredients and transportation of goods.

Corporate social responsibility(CSR) has reference to the practices businesses can implement to be actively involved in philanthropic practices so that the society can be benefited, for example in the food and drink industry, this is largely centered around environmental issues. We shall elaborate on the meaning of greenwashing as well as provide some examples of it in the industry for better understanding. The importance of CSR will be further discussed, identify greenwashing and qualify environmental goals in your business.

Understanding Greenwashing

Greenwashing is a method of conveying false or misleading information to the public about how a company’s products are environmentally friendly. This is largely found in the food and drink industry, the context published can range from anything like claiming to have eco-friendly packaging, following waste management methods that finally turns out to be harmful to the environment in some form or shape, or sometimes claiming that food items are sustainable when actually they can cause damage and harm to the environment.

Some commercial kitchen consultants describe their businesses that provide misleading and unsubstantiated claims with regards to their environmental impacts. These claims are then used to appeal to consumers’ beliefs so that they can actually perceive them as good. Many businesses use CSR as a marketing tool and then indulge in greenwashing to show they are doing a lot more than they actually do. The different types of greenwashing can range from marketing claims, misleading labels and green images.

Some specific examples of Greenwashing

  • McDonald’s paper straw campaign – McDonalds shifted from plastic straws to paper straws, and there was one huge uproar, about the soggy paper straw that had been in someone’s diet coke for a few hours seemed to rage people up. All this mess up was for nothing as the change was not even environmentally friendly, as the straws cannot be actually recycled due to the UK’s recycling infrastructure, and even if they could be, the cups could not be recycled. Now shifting from plastic to paper straws did not really solve any problem of single use plastic, instead it was a ploy to make McDonald look greener.
  • Oatly milk greenwashing claims – This plant based milk brand proudly presents itself as being a climate friendly alternative to not only cows milk but other plant based alternatives that have allegedly been misleading investors on their sustainability credentials. They faced a backlash when it surfaced that they were being funded by a deforestation linked investment management company in 2020. There was also a claim that Oatly’s production process generated dangerous volumes of wastewater, to build their own treatment facilities.
  • Fiji Water Marketing – A very common greenwashing tactic is constructing a green image around a product that is linked to systems of pollution and single use water. Their branding is mostly centered around visually pleasing shots of luscious jungles and branding lines like ‘every drop is green’. This company has been supplying single use plastic bottles and transporting them globally with pollutive transportation. Finally they came under fire for their ‘forward crediting’ method to their carbon negative claims. 

Today greenwashing is viewed very negatively, with consumers becoming extremely environmentally conscious and are hot on companies that do not meet the right standard of eco-friendly attitudes and policies. Hence it is the right time to act on greenwashing claims although avoiding them totally would be the best way to start. Whiffs of greenwashing claims can spread quickly, losing your business and attracting negative media attention could be very quick.

Some negative consequences of indulging in greenwashing could be as follows –

  • Misleading people into acting unsustainably
  • Environment suffers
  • Diminishes consumer trust

  This is true for large companies who have a huge customer base and great influence too over consumers.

Why is Corporate Social Responsibility Important in the Hospitality Industry

Corporate Social Responsibility(CSR) is a form of international private business self-regulation which aims to contribute to societal goals of philanthropic, activist or charitable nature. This is usually done by engaging in or supporting ethically oriented practices, and many companies aim to engage in this but for some it just ends up in another case of greenwashing  to make them appear more eco-friendly.

CSR is very important in hospitality since it encourages organisations to do good within the society, which further benefits their business too. Think positive media attention, publicity and societal respect. This is something like a win-win situation. The benefits of CSR in commercial kitchen consultants are far and wide – ranging from societal economic and environmental.

  • Social – 

a) Engagement with the local community and authorities.

b) Good reputation of business, as many customers are now environmentally conscious.

  • Economic – 

a) An organisation having a good reputation can enjoy recruitment and potential investments.

b) Less employee turnover due to a good reputation can decrease the cost of recruitment.

c) Workers are more productive.

d) Food publicity in the media can result in a rise in profit.

e) Waste management can increase profits because of redistribution, fewer costs associated with sending waste to landfill.

  • Environmental – 

a) Environmentally friendly with green ethos.

b) Energy saving

c) Waste control

d) Recycling

CSR is important in the hospitality industry as it has a dramatic impact on the environment through energy and water consumption, food waste and the use of consumable goods. Waste management is an important part of CSR to keep the environment a safe place to live. The commercial kitchens themselves account for 1% of global carbon emissions, with this only to increase as the industry grows. Commercial kitchens have a huge role to play as food production is the economic sector with the largest impact on biodiversity, contributing to 60-70% of total biodiversity loss in terrestrial ecosystems, and about 50% in freshwater systems.

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