Some interesting newspaper articles about “Greenwash” have appeared in the Cape Town press in recent weeks, including one in October’s “Street Trade, Not Aid” motivated The Big Issue, which is sold on the streets by formerly unemployed and often homeless hawkers.
Cape Town columnist Quentin Wray in his October 5 Business Watch column questions the Green ethics and broader credibility of companies such as transnational steel giant ArcelorMittal. Wray writes that while boasting on its South African website of having achieved ISO14001 certification in recognition of its “world-class environmental systems,” it is also the only corporation in the country facing a criminal investigation for “repeatedly ignoring instructions from authorities to stop dumping hazardous waste on an un-permitted site” at one of its plants.
These articles shine a glaring light on the prerequisite need for an effective authority and system for environmental monitoring and enforcement to be put in place, particularly in developing countries, where job creation and economic growth–or at least the promise of them – overwhelm all other considerations, push environmental sustainability, health and safety into the back seat where efforts too often fall miserably short of what should and could have been done.
In our era of instant global communication, it’s a lot faster, cheaper, easier and just as effective to create the perception of “going Green” by issuing media releases and conducting media campaigns – and perhaps even obtain international certifications – than it is to change the reality.