Published 3 months ago.
About a 5 minute read.
Image: Andrea Piacquadio
It's about to get more costly for companies that exaggerate environmental and social claims in their communications. But what if artificial intelligence could eradicate greenwash forever?
As anyone working in sustainability communications is well aware, the risks
are multifaceted and go well beyond mere marketing deception. Making wild claims
can genuinely hamper sustainability progress, erode consumer trust, undermine
regulatory efforts and mislead investors. To foster true sustainability and
responsible business practices, there must be a collective effort to expose and
— promoting transparency and holding companies accountable for their
Legislators and advertising standards authorities are only too well aware of
this and are imposing stricter regulations on how products and services are
marketed. The US Federal Trade Commission’s new
on how brands should use terms such as ‘eco-friendly’ and ‘biodegradable’ were
warmly welcomed. In France, companies can face fines of up to 10
of their annual turnover for deceptive environmental marketing; and the UK
is set to adopt a similar
In Australia, consumer protection laws have been
with the Competition and Consumer Act prohibiting false or misleading
representations about environmental benefits.
It's about to get more costly for companies that fall into the trap of
over-egging environmental and social claims in their marketing and
communications. But what if the answer to eradicating greenwash forever could be
solved by artificial intelligence (AI)?
AI is being used to solve all manner of challenges. It is revolutionizing
healthcare by improving diagnosis accuracy and treatment effectiveness —
IBM’s Watson for Oncology is a
great example of how AI can analyze patient data to suggest personalized
treatment options for cancer patients. The Nature Conservancy is using it to
study satellite data and predict illegal
activities to protect marine ecosystems. AI algorithms are scanning social media
posts and satellite images to map disaster-affected
areas and aid rescue and
relief efforts. In cities, AI is helping local authorities become smarter and
more efficient, with urban planners using AI simulations to address traffic
and make the air cleaner. And companies are even using it to craft more
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Now, a company called Greenifs has come up with a
solution that it hopes will enable firms to avoid the common pitfalls associated
with greenwashing — using the versatility of AI technology to transform ESG
The platform lets you copy and paste written content into a form (currently
limited to a social media post length of characters) and have it scanned by
robots for any potentially misleading and unsubstantiated messages. In a matter
of seconds, it then creates a fully automated analysis of the content —
highlighting where the writing might have veered into greenwash
Finally, it serves up a series of recommendations as to where the writer might
need to add more information, provide evidence and be clearer in what’s being
Image credit: Greenifs
Speaking on Zoom from his base in Lithuania, Greenifs founder and CEO
Vytautas Sabaliauskas is excited
about the possibilities for his new creation: “We’re taking the human error and
human labour out of keeping track of the latest green marketing regulations,” he
tells Sustainable Brands®.
He shares his screen so that I can explore the platform. We share a
few examples of recent social media posts that have caught our eye and plug them
into the platform — changing the region, according to where the business is
located; this is a defining criterion that will alter the AI results served up.
As we await the aggregated analysis and recommendations,
Sabaliauskas acknowledges that his new product might be somewhat ahead of the
legislation. But he is buoyed by the changing regulatory landscape, which has
created a gap in the market. Companies could really use his AI tool — as “a lot
of money will be burned,” he says. “Brand reputation is very hard to gain; and
companies can make simple mistakes. Our AI gives them a second opinion and
allows them to understand what might be missing.”
The idea for Greenifs.ai came while Sabaliauskas was working on other brand
projects — and a realisation that there isn’t a single online source of
information that highlights companies’ sustainability credentials. There are
plenty of rankings and benchmarks, of course; but no one way of exploring or
verifying green claims.
“We started playing with AI and wanted to explore where we could have a big
impact. We thought that this type of product could be crucial for brands, with
big fines coming and the harm that could be done by greenwashing,” he explained.
For all the good AI is bringing to sectors everywhere, there is a risk the
technology might fuel certain problems. Could the use of AI in marketing and
communications teams actually be contributing to greenwash in the first place?
“We’re not concerned about how companies create their messages; we just want
them to make claims they can prove,” says a defiant Sabaliauskas. “AI is there
to help — but decisions are still made by people.”
The greenifs.ai platform is available to try
out — users can analyse five posts as part of a free trial.
Published Aug 29, 2023 2pm EDT / 11am PDT / 7pm BST / 8pm CEST
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