Greenwashing may sound like an activity indulged in in the run up to Halloween but, in fact, it is an increasingly serious problem for companies working in the food sector with genuine environmental credentials.

Rather than a Halloween prank, greenwashing is the practice of using green public relations and marketing to deceptively persuade consumers that an organization’s products, aims and policies are environmentally friendly.

It is not only the public that is deceived, but companies that are genuinely trying protect the environment also lose out to their less than sincere competitors.

But perhaps not for much longer, in the U.K. at least, where a partnership between public and private organizations has been announced to establish standardized metrics to measure environmental performance in the food and drink sector.

Among those contributing to project are the U.K.’s largest poultry producer 2 Sisters Food Group and pig, and increasingly poultry, producer Cranswick.

Nothing to fear for the sincere

The U.K.’s Environment Agency has announced that, working with the public and private sectors, it wants to make it simpler for businesses and the public to understand environmental performance in key areas, such as greenhouse gas reduction and resource efficiency.

The initiative should help manufacturers to more efficiently communicate their environmental performance to the public, and so minimizing the possibilities for greenwashing.

Effectively communicating environmental performance beyond legal requirements is currently a challenge, in part because different businesses have developed and adopted differing environmental metrics. Standardizing metrics that go beyond simple legal compliance should not only make consumer communications easier but also understanding suppliers’ environmental compliance.

Once a system has been developed and is up and running, it is hoped, those companies that are failing to tackle climate change – or simply claiming to do so – should be incentivized to act.

The project is also benefitting from the participation of the U.K.’s second-largest supermarket chain Sainsbury’s and a number of environmental bodies and international food producing companies.

If you see a green-faced child in the streets over the next couple of days it is not that kind of greenwashing that is being tackled, but it will be them who benefit from bringing the practice to an end.