Survey - M&S; a green winner, BP biggest greenwasher


Marks & Spencer has retained its position as the UK’s greenest business, according to a survey of UK opinion leaders - while BP, Tesco and British Airways are considered the least eco-friendly.

The FTSE 100 Green Washers and Green Winners Survey - carried out by Chatsworth Communications - polled UK national and trade journalists, sustainability experts and political groups in a bid to measure how successful large corporations are when it comes to environmental issues.

The study aimed to identify the major UK companies seen to be leading the way on sustainability issues and those considered to be duping consumers with unfulfilled claims.

M&S remained at the top of the list with a majority of 51 per cent of votes, helped by its ‘Plan A’ campaign, which involves initiatives such as the imminent five pence charge for carrier bags. A large share of respondents (40 per cent) believed the retailer had run the 'best-publicised green campaign' in the last six months, although 10 per cent thought it was guilty of 'greenwash'.

Nick Murray-Leslie, director of Chatsworth, said - “Marks & Spencer continues to be seen as a leader on green issues and remains our top green winner. This reflects their high profile Plan A campaign, which has been praised for setting out very clear and achievable targets, rather than attempting to boost green credentials through publicity stunts that gain maximum coverage but have little substance.”

Another strong performer in the poll was new entrant - BSkyB - voted second with nine per cent of votes, followed by HSBC with seven per cent and another new entrant BT Group with six per cent.

Half of the people surveyed believe that the current level of media coverage is contributing to 'green fatigue' among the general public.

Global oil company BP was identified as the worst offender for making false claims, with 38 per cent of voters perceiving them as 'green washers' - followed by Tesco (21 per cent) and British Airways (10 per cent).

Elsewhere, Conservative leader David Cameron beat Prime Minister Gordon Brown as the greenest political leader, with 41 per cent of votes, compared to 28 per cent for Brown.

Murray-Leslie added - “Unfortunately, Gordon Brown is not perceived to be fulfilling his green commitments and so, it is left to UK business and, indeed, the individual to lead the way.”

The findings come after the Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) announced last month that some of the UK’s biggest advertisers were forming a new group to look further at the issues surrounding green marketing (Click Here).

The formation of the group - which includes COI, British Gas and Unilever - follows an increase in the number of environmental advertising claims and complaints surrounding them.

The results, overall, reveal increasing cynicism as to whether UK business is leading on environmental issues out of a genuine desire to protect the environment, or if this is just greenwash aimed at creating an eco-friendly corporate image -

  • The main motivation for UK companies to adopt green policies is to protect their reputation (27%) followed by consumer pressure (20%) and good business sense (18%)
  • Only 1% believe genuine concern for the environment is the key driver for UK companies to adopt green policies
  • Marks & Spencer (45%) and HSBC voted the top green winners – the companies making the most genuine green effort
  • BP, Tesco and British Airways considered to be most guilty of ‘greenwash’ by respondents
  • BP, Tesco and Marks & Spencer have the highest profile and most effective green publicity campaigns in terms of coverage
  • Majority of respondents (75%) believe it is better for big business to 'own-up' where they are not green and show a willingness to make the necessary changes.