ESG stands for Environment, Social, and Governance, and it refers to whether the operation and process of an enterprise is being transparently disclosed. Recently it has become common for companies to issue an ESG, which refers to the attitude of management towards society and the environment. It measures an intangible social element rather than a tangible financial one, but most importantly, it promotes ‘sustainable development.’ Many enterprises have recently emphasized the importance of an ESG management mindset. As the number of consumers who purchase eco-friendly products has increased, the consumers have been demanding a commitment to ESG from enterprises as well.
I was lucky enough to find a consumer, who values eco-friendly consumption, in the CBNU Press. Ahn Na-lyang, a copy editor, said “Eco-friendly operation is not an option but a must because of serious global heating. The velocity of global heating is rapidly increasing, and if humans want to survive, they will have to change their lifestyles. Also, the fact that consumers want eco-friendly consumption makes enterprises produce eco-friendly products because enterprises are managed by consumers’ choices. Although the choices of private consumers look small, every small choice of consumers can help to transform society and protect the ecosystem.” She emphasized that enterprises should lead consumers to engage in eco-friendly consumption behavior. The question then becomes whether enterprises are truly producing and manufacturing in such a way that consumers may purchase eco-friendly products?
I’m living alone, so I often order and drink bottled water. Until just a few months ago, the bottles were labeled, so when recycling, I had to remove the labels from the plastic bottles. However, when I went to the recycling facility I was disappointed to notice that many of the consumers did not remove the labels, and most of the discarded bottles were thrown out with the labels intact. Fortunately companies have caught on to this problem, and now most bottled waters no are sold without labels. Therefore, it can be said that enterprises producing bottled water lead consumers to purchase eco-friendly products, and that the process of positive enforcement cuts both ways.
Also, the famous S café enterprise launched a paper straw on November 26, 2018. S enterprise announced that paper straws would replace plastic straws and launched the paper straw with an eco-friendly image. In addition to this, S enterprise launched reusable cups to celebrate its 50th anniversary, hosting an event offering complimentary cups with certain purchases. The reusable cups were launched to reduce disposable cups. It attracted consumers’ attention in that it was eco-friendly, and the response to the event was explosive. It can therefore be said that the S enterprise produces eco-friendly products as well.
However, some environmental groups criticized the initiative contending that the reusable cup is not really an eco-friendly product; it is made of plastic, and can only be used about 20 times before it is discarded. Both the National Assembly and environmental groups, criticized S enterprise accusing them of ‘Green Washing.’
Green Washing is a term formed from ‘Green’ and ‘White Washing,’ and it describes marketing where enterprises feign and profess eco-friendly practices without really making the necessary changes and sacrifices. Many customers, including the copy editor Ahn, decries the practice of greenwashing and deceiving consumers who really do prefer to consume eco-friendly products. In addition to S enterprise, many enterprises practice greenwashing and this continues to affect the temperature of the Earth aversely. What’s worse is that it makes people overlook the fact that purchasing their products is an important factor that affects global heating. These companies claim that they offer eco-friendly products, but in the process they deceive their consumers while destroying the global ecosystem.
Environmental problems are always on people’s minds to some extent, but the concept of greenwashing has not been fully exposed to society, so it is still unfamiliar to a majority of consumers, leaving them vulnerable to be deceived by cunning enterprises. I hope that the reader, whether a consumer or an enterprise, will all be alert to greenwashing and think about how their actions will affect the environment. Whether intentionally or unintentionally, it is proper for greenwashing enterprises to be criticized by consumers. Bold faced greenwashing should not be tolerated, and unintentional greenwashing should not be repeated. It is a lifelong challenge for enterprises to avoid mistakes, and find solutions to these problems. Not only enterprises but also consumers should be vigilant when it comes to greenwashing. Consumers should not only criticize the enterprises that practice greenwashing, but also think about whether the products advertised by the enterprises is greenwashing. Consumers have a serious responsibility to be weary of faux ‘eco-friendly’ products when they are purchasing items. Finally, I hope this column will serve as an opportunity for both enterprises and consumers to recognize greenwashing and to establish a correct response to it. Plus, I hope that enterprises and consumers, that is society as a whole, will eventually halt the destruction of the ecosystem and the extinction of humans, and contribute to ‘sustainable development.’