Acting on the climate crisis and biodiversity loss not only boosts competitiveness and financial performance, but also demonstrates social responsibility, while earning customer loyalty and investor support. Regardless of your sector, your business must adopt a robust sustainability strategy to remain relevant. 

But a strategy alone isn’t enough. Making commitments without follow-through can be risky and may see support for the business dwindle. Added to this is the renewed sense of urgency to do more, faster, as scientists warn that we’re inching perilously closer to an increasingly uninhabitable Earth. The current trajectory suggests we will potentially exceed the 1.5°C temperature-increase limit outlined in the Paris Agreement1. 

Public scrutiny sparks global greenwashing crackdown 

The urgency to act quickly has led to greenwashing, where the gap between a company’s commitment and action raises scepticism. However, it’s not always about intentional deceit. Even an unintentional oversight with misuse of a word like 'green' can damage a brand's reputation. 

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Surprisingly common, greenwashing undermines consumer trust. In a recent ‘sweep’ of brand websites, the EU found that nearly half2 of featured green claims were “exaggerated, false, or deceptive”. Meanwhile, in Australia, the national competition and consumer commission noted that 57%3 of brands across eight sectors had “promoted concerning claims about their environmental credentials”, and another study found that 72%4 of CEOs in North America believed their organization had overstated its sustainability efforts. 

Public demand for transparency is driving stricter government oversight. A study by the European Commission found that 53% of the environmental claims made for products and services in the EU were vague to misleading and as many as 40% were simply without substance5. In early 2023, the EU Commission published a proposal for a directive against advertising that presents products, services and the company itself as more environmentally friendly than they actually are. The proposed Directive requires all companies to make voluntary claims about the environmental impacts, aspects or performance of their products, services or the company itself, using terms that are not defined by the EU, such as "ocean-friendly" or "climate-neutral". Around the world, governments are proposing to introduce (or have introduced) further laws and regulations to combat the issue of greenwashing and we’ll continue to see this trend develop. 

The bottom line is that businesses must back all sustainability actions with high-quality, credibly verified data to prove real-world impact. But how can you balance the need for rapid action with the ability to provide evidence that what you’re doing is actually making a positive change? 

Enlisting the help of forests: A dual front approach 

Supporting sustainable forestry is an easy way for companies to drive meaningful impact on not one but two fronts. That’s because forests tackle two global concerns, namely the climate crisis and biodiversity loss.  

When managed responsibly, forests reduce greenhouse gas emissions, because they’re able to capture and store carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere. As well as being home to over 80% of the world’s terrestrial biodiversity, these environments nurture the vital ecosystems that people rely on for shelter, food, their livelihoods and more.  

The ecosystem services that forests provide in terms of carbon sequestration, water filtration, air purification, biodiversity maintenance and more are often overlooked with the economy focusing on tangible forest-based products like timber and rubber. And yet, it’s these very ecosystem services that make forests the silent warriors we need, fighting to preserve a planet that can sustain life well into the future. 

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There are different means to support sustainable efforts in an impactful way and they're clearly available, but business leaders, worried about the pitfalls of greenwashing perhaps, haven’t pursued this avenue. A possible barrier here is that nearly a quarter6 of these executives say it’s difficult to measure their company’s impact.  

Enter the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) 

FSC has long been a proponent of the important ecosystem services forests can provide and, as such, has been working on a solution. The aim is to help businesses easily unlock verified and credible claims around their responsible forestry projects.  

FSC is developing Verified Impact, currently known as Ecosystem Services, a solution to unlock high-quality, independently verified, data-driven claims about ecosystem services in your forestry projects.  This solution will be an upgrade to the Ecosystem Services Procedure, with it, you can transparently report to regulators, demonstrate your positive impact, and confidently share your achievements through data-led storytelling.  

Over and above that, with credible data, you’re able to motivate stakeholders to invest in a business that is making a measurable change in the world. Importantly, data-led storytelling can be confidently rolled out, sharing progress with the public and garnering trust and loyalty from consumers.  

FSC has helped many businesses unleash these benefits, raising their profile as forest stewards. Find out more about Verified Impact and how you can become a forest steward here. 

Explore our blog series Unite in the Forest Fight for more insights into the crucial role of forests in shaping a sustainable future. Don’t forget to follow FSC on social media – LinkedInTwitterFacebook and Instagram.  

[1] United Nations (2022). Climate: World getting ‘measurably closer’ to 1.5-degree threshold (accessed 28 September 2023).

[2] European Commission (2021). Screening of websites for ‘greenwashing': half of green claims lack evidence (accessed 26 July 2023).

[3] The Guardian (March 2023). ACCC to crack down on ‘greenwashing’ after survey reveals spike in misleading claims (accessed 26 July 2023).

[4] The Harris Poll for Google Cloud (2022). CEOs are ready to fund a sustainable transformation. (accessed 26 July 2023).

[5] KPMG (2023). Green Claims Directive - The EU Commission turns off the tap to "greenwashers,or%20%22climate%2Dneutral%22 (accessed 5 October 2023).

[6] Deloitte (2023) CxO Sustainability Report: Accelerating the Green Transition. (accessed 25 July 2023).