Sustainable living

Greenwashing

To falsely give the impression that a company’s products and services provide greater environmental or ‘green’ benefits than is actually the case.

Mistrust, distrust and inherent suspicions can wreak havoc on well laid plans be they for production or marketing purposes. But are these feelings justified?

After a long career in financial services, I have witnessed ethical investing slowly gain momentum. No longer do the ‘green’ investments deliver virtuously low returns; they are beginning to find their way in amongst pretty decent investment portfolios. When I hung up my calculator late 2020 in favour of my upcycling paintbrush, new legislation was being introduced to monitor the disclosure (transparency) of sustainable investing (Sustainable Finance Disclosure Regulation (2019/2088) “SFDR” from 10th March 2021). This is particularly relevant for those firms and products which promote environmental or social characteristics as a specific objective.

  • ESG (Environmental, Social and Governance) investing also known as “sustainable investing.” This is an umbrella term for investments that seek positive returns and long-term impact on society, environment and the performance of the business.
    • Environmental: Considerations for the environment, pollution and climate change
    • Social: Socially responsible practices, human rights, equality, data security
    • Governance: Positive Employment practices, business ethics and diversity

You could be reactive such as avoid all association with firms active in the sale of arms, or the production of fossil fuels or be proactive in seeking out firms that aim to make a difference like renewable energy or technology infrastructure.

This ethos is not confined to financial services. Environmental and socially responsible policies are more central to our everyday lives whether it’s recycling milk cartons or buying upcycled furniture; it’s all pointing in the right direction.

How can greenwashing relate to the furniture upcycling industry? There is a general spirit amongst upcyclers that operating in an eco-friendly and sustainability fashion are at the forefront of our businesses. My favourite paint brands to date are Annie Sloan Chalk Paint and Cornish Mineral Milk Paint, both of which are made in the UK, and Fusion Mineral Paint from Canada, all of which have virtually no VOCs (which can irritate the eyes, nose and throat and cause difficulty breathing) whilst these three family run firms are actively engaging in sustainable management practices. Upcycling furniture by its very nature is a planet-friendly endeavour.

Is the IKEA Buy Back and Resell initiative a viable option for those not yet embracing the secondhand culture of upcycling? Will it encourage and empower further sustainable living rather than high turnover disposable Britain? Or is is a marketing ploy by jumping on the bandwagon? My personal opinion is that there is a place for IKEA in many homes. I wish I had bought their PAX wardrobes for my two rather untidy daughters for example. However, I cannot believe IKEA furniture has terrific longevity, especially in multiple homes with multiple journeys – fully built to boot. I may be wrong. Perhaps the plastic trim will remain adhered to the MDF/chipboard sides of the unit and the small plastic screw covers will continue to cover the screw heads.

I am a tad cynical, not with IKEA’s initiative which is commendable but whether it will bring the whole idea of upcycling furniture into disrepute where there is pride to take well made unwanted furniture into the 21st Century. I’m just not convinced. Is this greenwashing? The jury’s out.

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