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Greenwashing jeopardizes efforts for a "nature positive" world

In an era where the emphasis on creating a nature-friendly environment has never been greater, researchers are warning of the dangers posed by greenwashing. 

The concept of greenwashing has emerged as a significant barrier to achieving a ‘nature positive’ world, an aspirational vision of halting environmental degradation and protecting biodiversity.

Nature positive 

According to World Economic Forum, nature positive means enhancing the resilience of our planet and societies to halt and reverse nature loss.

It represents an intent to go a step beyond the present measures, which largely orbit around damage control.

“Nature positive is a hot topic in conservation. Described as the biodiversity version of a ‘net zero’ climate goal, the desired outcome is an improvement in the state of nature and not merely the mitigation of impacts,” wrote the researchers.

The team was led by Professor Martine Maron from The University of Queensland

Leaders’ Pledge for Nature

Professor Maron stressed the indispensability of a nature positive approach, especially in the face of the ongoing mass extinction. 

“Countries around the world are starting to back the concept – more than 90 world leaders have signed on to the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature calling for a nature positive future by 2030,” said Professor Maron. 

“And 11 of the global Fortune 100 companies already aspire to contribute to nature positive.”

“This is fantastic news, but these laudable ambitions mustn’t be sidelined by a well-known enemy of the environmental movement: greenwash.”

What is greenwashing?

Greenwashing is the tactic employed by organizations to project an inflated image of their environmental commitments. 

It involves dishing out misleading or deceptive information to appear more environmentally responsible than one truly is.

Misleading information 

Professor E.J. Milner-Gulland from the University of Oxford said the team hopes that the public does not get the proverbial wool pulled over their eyes.

“Our message to the public is that it’s incredibly important to scrutinize these claims,” said Professor Milner-Gulland.

“As with the term ‘net zero,’ you’ll soon start to see the businesses you buy from, and the governments you vote for, making claims that they are being, doing, or contributing to nature positive.”

“But to be clear, such an achievement is only possible if we fundamentally change how we run our society and economy.”

“What we really need are standards, so that it’s clear what constitutes misleading information, and transparency, so that consumers and voters can tell the greenwash from the genuine efforts for change.”

We still have a long way to go

Australia is currently framing its national environmental law reforms around the concept of nature positive.

“For these initiatives to truly achieve that goal, they’ll need to be substantial and far-reaching, preventing the accumulation of further impacts, especially on our threatened biodiversity,” said Professor Maron.

“Hundreds of thousands of hectares of habitat are still being cleared in Australia every year, so we still have a long way to go before we can say we’re nature positive.”

The research is published in the journal Nature Ecology and Evolution.

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