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What is greenhushing?

A new report by South Pole, a climate consultancy and carbon offsets developer, has found that companies are increasingly choosing to underreport their sustainability plans and goals. Of the 1200 companies surveyed across 12 countries, the report found that over 25 per cent of companies chose to not publicise their science-based net zero emission targets, or the roadmap to achieving them. This phenomenon, called “greenhushing” is driven by the fear of public scrutiny and climate litigation. “Companies are hesitant to over-promise publicly on what they can deliver,” the report said.

How is it different from greenwashing?

Greenwashing is when companies use marketing efforts to mislead customers over the sustainability of their brand in order to increase profitability. Greenhushing on the over hand, is when brands avoid outlining their sustainability goals and plans in the public domain out of fear of being perceived as ‘not doing enough’.

Why is it happening?

In the age of social media, shortcomings are highly visible and shareable. Over the last year, brands such as H&M and Adidas have come under fire from consumers and climate activists for greenwashing their sustainability initiatives. The brands were disparaged by consumers on social media, alongside facing lawsuits from leading consumer protection agencies.

What’s wrong with greenhushing?

Companies that greenhush miss out on the opportunity to inspire positive change and drive progress in their industry. By setting ambitious, science-based targets, companies can act as role models to other organisations, as well as identify innovative new solutions that set them apart as a trailblazer in their sector. Greenhushing also prevents customers looking to support sustainable businesses from making informed decisions and knowing what to expect from businesses in the long-term with regards to sustainability efforts.

How to avoid becoming a greenhusher

  • Communicate clearly. The absence of information will always be translated into the absence of action. Be transparent about the things you have achieved, as well as the things you are struggling with. This will help to build trust amongst your customers and ensure brand loyalty.

  • Be consistent. An annual sustainability report is one of the best ways of demonstrating consistent commitment to improvement. It will also help to show progress against some indicators. Where there is less progress than you desired, be sure to communicate clearly why that is.

  • Avoid jargon. Stakeholders are more likely to question your reporting when you use vague language and jargon that is not easy to decipher. Report in a way that is clear and accessible so that your stakeholders understand exactly what you are doing and what you intend to do next.



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