How greenwashing threatens environmental practice

  •   10 October 2017

Environmentally conscious development is on the rise across the Australian construction industry. This has occurred as the result of increasing awareness within the industry about the risks that climate change poses, and increasing expectations from consumers to combat those risks.

However, this uptake in concern – and corresponding demand for environmental sustainability – has been matched by the topic’s contrivance, which threatens to reduce a serious issue to a collection of catch phrases and empty logos. This practice, known as ‘greenwashing’, involves “the misleading claims of environmental benefits attached to a product… designed to portray a product or company as caring for the environment”. This can occur through words, graphics, vague or unprovable claims, exaggeration of compliance, or deliberate exclusion of information.

In the construction industry, greenwashing makes it harder for architects, specifiers and clients to make informed decisions about the products and practices used in a project, and encourages the spread of greenwashing as unsubstantiated claims are further distributed.

The widespread practice of greenwashing has taken place across all business sectors – not just within architecture and design. However, accurate and sufficient benchmarks for sustainability are paramount for the construction industry, given it makes up 23 percent of Australia’s total greenhouse gas emissions and has significant potential to reduce that figure.

At best, the greenwashing of inadequate products and practices is undertaken to increase sales without impacting the environment directly either way. (Even then, the practice of greenwashing contributes further to the idea that sustainability is a trend in the market and not worth long-term consideration.) At its worst, greenwashing deceives consumers into believing that their choices are beneficial when they are the opposite. As an example, the common phrase ‘all natural’ does not necessarily rule out the use of naturally occurring yet harmful substances such as chlorine or lead in a specified product. The best way to combat this is through transparency and third-party verification, to ensure the materials used live up to the manufacturer’s claims and are also safe.

The same approach can be taken to guarantee environmental sustainability, i.e. through transparency and third-party accreditation. There are a number of third-party green standards that are well-regarded within the Australian construction industry and worldwide.

These benchmarks include global and local initiatives such as Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED), Green Star, and the Living Building Challenge for holistic projects; or GreenTag, Declare, the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification Schemes (PEFC), and Water Efficiency Labelling and Standards (WELS) for individual products. All of these standards, along with others, have gained their reputation over time via consistently reliable and stringent benchmarking and their own commitment to transparency. Making the accreditation process as straightforward as possible ensures it’s easier for interested parties to take up their challenges.

Most of these standards do not operate on the premise of pass/fail but rather a scale from good to the best, meaning that steps can be taken towards environmental sustainability even when budgets are tight, for instance.

Australian owned and operated, Weathertex have continually strived to produce environmentally sustainable, high-quality products for the unpredictable Australian climate. As the ideal solution for any builder, architect or designer in search of environmentally conscious materials, Weathertex’s timber weatherboards and architectural panels are made from PEFC-certified, locally sourced and manufactured native hardwood timber. Weathertex have proven themselves as industry leaders for sustainable accreditation, as demonstrated by their nomination as the number one most reliable brand in the building industry by the 2016 Architecture and Design survey.

Weathertex timber cladding – made from 97 percent hardwood and 3 percent paraffin wax – is both 100 percent natural and 100 percent safe. This has been verified by the Living Futures Institute’s Declare program, a voluntary self-disclosure program that aims to cast a light on healthier products through ingredient transparency.

Furthermore, Weathertex’s Natural range of timber weatherboards and architectural panels was the first manufactured product range to receive a GreenTag Platinum certification with a GreenRate Level A globally, along with a secondary Gold certification for their primed flat cladding and wall panel sheets. Ecospecifier Global GreenTag Certification is one of the largest product sustainability certification systems in Australia and across the world, and the only Certification Mark approved by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

With their timber cladding backed up with a 10-25 year guarantee not to rot, split or crack, Weathertex is leading the way in sustainability measures and natural, long-lasting products.


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