Greenhushing: What is it and how do we combat it?
New research from environmental charity Earthwatch Europe finds nearly 1 in 4 medium and large UK companies have practiced greenhushing in the last 12 months (since April 2022). Here, Content Coms gives a breakdown of greenhushing, uncovering why businesses are greenhushing and the major implications of doing so.
What is greenhushing?
Greenhushing is the understating of sustainable practices or, in some cases, the complete avoidance of environmental communication in the first place.
This makes greenhushing the inverse of greenwashing, which has become the commonplace term defining a company’s overstatement of any green commitments (or lack thereof). As more buzzwords enter the sustainability realm, it’s important for businesses to understand terminologies, and how to avoid damaging practice.
Why are businesses greenhushing?
Over 23% of 1,009 British decision makers admitted to deliberately or inadvertently greenhushing, with the main driver for actions being balancing of sustainable and financial objectives, according to Earthwatch’s research.
With the International Monetary Fund’s 2023 forecast placing the UK as the worst performing G7 economy, Earthwatch shares concerns of sustainable priorities being pushed to the backburner with focus on economic recovery.
Often, greenhushing is not backed by malicious intent. Instead, businesses can be seen to be chasing perfection. The consistent push for improved ESG data can understandably make businesses feel uneasy about sharing their progress.
What are the risks of greenhushing?
Halting sustainable progress. Remaining silent or dulling-down environmental commitments ultimately reduces the influence for industry-wide change.
Mistrust. Alongside the main impact of greenwashing, any form of misinformation leads to stakeholder and consumer mistrust, preventing informed decision-making and further muddying the pool for an ever-confusing topic.
Reputation. Vague communication can damage company reputations, risking businesses to be perceived as ‘quietly conscientious’. Minimising environmental efforts risks misleading consumers into believing companies are more sustainable than they let on.
How can we combat greenhushing?
Greenhushing surprised some as a hot topic at London’s recent Innovation Zero summit (25th April, 23). The ‘Communicating the Urgency of the Challenge’ panel was quick to confirm the serious implications of greenhushing.
Panellist Arlo Brady, CEO of Freuds said: “We live in a world of misinformation. It’s time to dial up scrutiny, dialog and regulations for sustainability. The majority of greenhushing isn’t malicious, we need scrutiny along with an increase in volume to make conversations around sustainability normalised. We need to make people feel left out if they’re not a part of the conversation”
Following the report’s release, CEO of Earthwatch Europe, Steve Andrews said:
“Business leaders must be open to receiving constructive criticism and must prioritize transparency in their sustainability reporting. Lack of transparency is a form of evading scrutiny, which poses risks not only to the business in question but also to the broader industry, economy and – crucially – the outlook for our planet.
“We urge companies to embrace transparency and actively engage with stakeholders on sustainability issues. Only by being honest and open about their environmental impact can companies build trust and credibility with consumers, investors, and other stakeholders.”