Why Targets Matter, and Why Sticking to Them is Even More Important

15/01/2016

The UK Government has missed its target on environmental mitigation. While it has rebutted the criticism by disclosing what they have saved – not small numbers by any means – it is a damaging time.

Setting and disclosing targets is not just about the amount you save, it’s about being open, transparent and honest. It’s about doing what you say you are going to do. Unfortunately when you do not deliver on such promises, it damages much more than your environmental performance.

This drive to disclose and set targets is certainly laudable but greenwash occurs when they are unrealistic and not based on any assessment of feasibility. It is ironic that by trying to be open, companies can sometimes be drawn into something that is not honest.

In an age where the customer is increasingly aware of and interested in how a company conducts itself, there is very little room to hide unsavoury news.

By not doing what you commit to doing, you break the trust with your customer, and wider stakeholders. These reputational impacts can have a very significant impact on your business – just ask Volkswagen, who’s share price dropped from €165 to €95 in the wake of the scandal and are facing a £36bn bill to rectify this fraud.

Many companies understand the benefits of being a sustainable operator and that while external recognition and engagement is highly important, if there is not the robust and feasible backing behind it, you are setting yourself up to damage your reputation and relationships.

Unfortunately for all of us, when the government does this, it damages more than their own reputation, it affects all those reducing environmental impacts. As Labour’s Lisa Nandy said this week "If the Government can’t even cut its own pollution footprint, how can anyone have confidence they will cut Britain’s?"