Beware the Washing and Spinning

by | Nov 23, 2020

The sheer speed and volume of information available today make it difficult, even for experts, to distinguish whether claims by people and organisations are fact, fiction, or somewhere in-between.

For example, sustainability issues are becoming more important to communities, investors and governments. Forward-thinking businesses and industries are acting decisively to meet these expectations and provide evidence of their achievements. 

In parallel, we hear reports of a growing trend of ‘greenwashing’, where firms and industries make misleading claims about their environmental and social credentials. It seems that there is substance to these concerns.

One of the world’s largest providers of financial markets data, Refinitiv, commissioned a survey on third-party risk early in 2020. Their report found that 57% of the 250 institutional investors polled, with more than US$10 trillion under management, believe companies are presenting misleading environmental credentials, and 84% think the practice is becoming more common.

Inflated claims to gain an advantage or enlist support for a cause are hardly a new phenomenon. For the private and not for profit sectors, misleading and deceptive claims invite the attention of regulators. 

Still, there is a lot of grey area outside of black letter law.

Politicians, activists, interest groups and the media are all inclined to put an ‘angle’ on their narrative. As with greenwashing, claims are all the more potent with enough facts mixed in to make it seem credible.

All that washing and spinning can be more about preserving the status quo. Better to question first and buy-in later.

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