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| 1 minute read

What happens when your Sustainability message fails?

If you are seeing a plethora of corporate announcements this month that seem to be showing children, flowers and blue skies, you are not alone.  It's April, aka, Earth Month, and in addition to blooming of Spring Flowers, you will also see a burst of advertising touting many corporations commitments to the Environment.  This is all good news, we want our corporate global citizens to understand how their past behavior helped contribute to our shared climate crisis and show what actions they are taking to mitigate the issue moving forward.  

But what happens when what should be a happy, feel good story falls flat, or even worse, you become accused of "Greenwashing"?  Thus is the dilemma that KLM Airlines now faces.   Here is a company that thought it was doing something good and wanted to share that information with the world and now  looks less than genuine, the total opposite of the message they wanted to convey.

But we do want companies telling their good stories, we want them to care, to push the envelope on what is possible for corporations, to help achieve a more stable climate for everyone.  We don't want them to sit by in silence, but want them to show how business, in absence of regulation, can do their own individual part to take on the challenges of climate change. But, how do you tell that story and more importantly, how do you tell it credibly?  

This is  where sometimes the marketing department can fall short. They are not staffed by climate experts and are usually focused on just telling a story. What they are missing is the substance behind the story, and what is that substance? Data. 

But data means nothing without assurance.  Yes, you have this great program and the data looks great; but is it real?  Can you measure it? More importantly, can the claim be verified, and even better can it be verified by an independent party?  At first glance, this may seem unnecessary, and even expensive, but I would argue the best investment is spent on preventing an embarrassing  and even more expensive PR blunder from ever occurring in the first place.  So a small, initial investment in assurance upfront can go a long way in preventing a hit to your institutional reputation later while also  instilling greater shareholder confidence.  

With that thought I say to you, Happy Earth Day.  I'm going outside to enjoy the flowers!

The new ad’s tagline seems to play on the name of the program; but without further explanation, it does imply that flying with KLM can be free of carbon emissions — according to Bloomberg, the watchdog group said KLM’s approach results in a certain “level of offsetting” of emissions but is not “adequate” to claim absolute carbon neutrality.


csr sustainability assurance, sustainability