Greenwash in the green Borough


Being the health conscious type (healthy body, healthy planet, healthy mind) I am a regular at the local leisure centre which has a swimming pool and half-decent gym. About six months ago whilst waiting for a friend to arrive so we could train together (don’t they say 30% perspiration, 70% motivation), I was reading the  Centre’s mission statements  (I had been waiting a while). There I found the following declaration:


As an integrated part of its environmental management policy (EMS) Bromley Mytime is committed to responsible energy management and will seek to utilise energy efficiently throughout all its premises, processes, plant and equipment. Using guidelines set out under ISO 14001 this policy seeks to:

·         Understand the issues facing the business

·         Provide a policy to address the issues concerned

·         Implement the Policy through the development of an Action Plan

·         Identify measures to regularly audit and review the policy

(a phone camera image – of poor quality, it was taken covertly! – can be seen above)

Bromley Mytime is a charitable trust created to manage leisure services on behalf of the London Borough of Bromley – in other words it is hived off council facilities – so you would expect there to be a degree of transparency in its activities. I had been studying the implementation of EMS and it seemed like a good opportunity to see the process in action. I waited a few months to see if there were any discernable change like recycling bins, low energy lighting etc  – there was none, so I asked at reception how the EMS outlined on the notice board was progressing and was met with blank looks (part of the process is staff involvement and education so that bit wasn’t happening either!). Eventually I got to speak with management and was asked to put a request in writing – so I did. The following week I was informed the manager concerned with implementing EMS was on holiday and would respond on his return, he was then in the process of changing job rolls, on a training course, too busy, on the phone, in a meeting – get the picture? After two months I was eventually told someone else was now dealing with EMS and I would need to write again – so I did. Further enquiries found this new contact was too busy, in a meeting, on the phone, on a training course bla bla bla, and finally – unable to help due to confidentiality issues!  

I finally managed to corner the original guy who revealed that there was in fact no EMS, there was no timetable for one to be implemented and they didn’t have the staff in-house to develop or manage one. I explained my interest once again, and asked to be kept informed, and to have access to process when it went ahead, he indicated this would probably be OK and he would ask his manager then email me, it’s been three weeks and I am still awaiting a response. Meanwhile the Declaration of Commitment remains reassuringly on the board.

Bromley prides itself in being the “Green Borough”, and is the location of Darwin’s house – restored in all its whitewashed glory, where “Origin of Species” was written and has been proposed for World Heritage status. What a shame that those who manage its public facilities are engaged in “greenwashing” their commitment to the environment that Darwin did so much to reveal to us all.

Darwin’s house:

Bromley Mytime:


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5 Responses to Greenwash in the green Borough

  1. keithsc says:

    I wonder if you should take this up with a local Councillor, fill in an official complaint form or even take it up with the Ombudsman although that would be a bit extreme at this stage. Definitely time to increase the pressure I would think. Or perhaps the local press might be interested in it as a story? I’m glad to say that Woking where I live is much more serious in its commitment to green issues.

  2. earthpal says:

    Makes one wonder how many more of those notices we see displayed on the walls of organisations reassuring their customers/users of their green ethics are also little more than lip-service.

    Good work Stephan.

  3. the Grit says:

    Hi Stephan,

    Don’t worry. I have little doubt that the bureaucrat you’re talking about will be hired away by our next Government. Some of our locally produced ones have been having legal troubles lately, so I’m sure we’ll be looking to out source.

    the Grit

  4. Pete Smith says:

    What a surprise 🙂 A little info on the ISO (International Organization for Standardization) framework might be useful. Along with ISO 9000, the ISO 14000 family is among ISO’s best known standards; together they’re implemented by over a million organizations in 161 countries.
    Working for a large financial services organisation in the 90s, I watched with amusement as senior management strove to acquire ISO 9000 accreditation as proof of commitment to “quality management”, i.e. stuff such as customer’s quality requirements, regulatory requirements, customer satisfaction, continual performance management and improvement in pursuit of these objectives.
    The ISO 14000 family, of which ISO 14001 is the cornerstone, offers a similar framework for “environmental management”, i.e. minimising harmful effects on the environment, and achieving continual improvement of its environmental performance.
    Being portable standards, neither family contains any requirements on specific actions. They are a set of controls against which an organisation can be certified by a third party ( another great money spinner by the way).
    This quote from Wikipedia sums up my own perception of !SO 9000 as something that every organisation ought to be seen to have:
    “A company or organization that has been independently audited and certified to be in conformance with ISO 9001 may publicly state that it is “ISO 9001 certified” or “ISO 9001 registered”. Certification to an ISO 9000 standard does not guarantee any quality of end products and services; rather, it certifies that formalized business processes are being applied. Indeed, some companies enter the ISO 9001 certification as a marketing tool.” Exactly.
    Given our current pre-occupation with all things ‘green’, ISO 14000 has become the new ISO 9000. I’m not surprised at LBB’s ‘implementation’ of it. Just a tick in the box, to demonstrate they care and they’re making an effort. All very cynical.

  5. matt says:

    It does seem a little odd to have a certification system without a real and useful means to an end. Smoke and mirrors bound up within a system of public relations isn’t helpful and such a misleading approach simply makes people more cynical.

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