Futerra hits out at Defra and Ogilvy greenwashing guides

An environmental PR agency has hit out at two recent greenwashing guides by client the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and rival agency Ogilvy.

Futerra co-founder and CEO: Solitaire Townsend
Futerra co-founder and CEO: Solitaire Townsend

Futerra Sustainability Communications has commented on Defra’s ‘Green Claims Code’ and Ogilvy’s ‘From Greenwash to Great’ reports, stating that they ‘simply leave a list of things we cannot do and a nasty taste in the mouth’.

Futerra co-founder and CEO Solitaire Townsend said that Defra’s revised ‘Green Claims Code’, currently in consultation, needed more future-proofing.

Futerra has worked for Defra previously, for example on the department’s 2005 climate change comms strategy.

‘It should be future-proofed for a year at least,’ said Townsend. ‘That’s where I’d like to see more work than we’re seeing in the consultation. I’d like to see the UK setting the agenda rather than following.’

Townsend added that the guidance needed to be more specific, for instance with regards to what levels of carbon emissions should be labelled as low-carbon. Futerra is currently reviewing its own Greenwash guide, initially issued in 2008.

A Defra spokesperson commented: ‘We want the Green Claims guidance to be as helpful as possible to businesses and we therefore welcome any feedback on the draft guidance during the consultation period, which runs to 15 June.’

Townsend said of Ogilvy’s report, which was published last month: ‘What I’d like to see more of is what you can do, rather than guidance on what you can’t.’

Townsend also questioned what Ogilvy was doing to train its own employees about steering clear of greenwash: ‘I believe BP is one of Ogilvy’s clients – how is Ogilvy implementing its greenwashing guidelines for clients such as them?’ 

Ogilvy PR senior director Ross Cathcart said: ‘We welcome all comments that work towards establishing a dialogue on how best to communicate corporate responsibility, build better businesses and avoid greenwash.’

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