What is Green Hushing? Speak up!

Thought you were up to speed on your sustainability speak? Not so fast... Whilst we’re all on the look-out for greenwashing in corporate comms, a new phenomenon has been quietly building in the background, and it’s time we started making a noise.

by Ben May | Environmental | 9 May 2024

As our world continues to experience the devastating impacts of climate change, consumers and governments are putting more pressure on corporations to be accountable for their sustainability targets. Read on to learn more about how this demand for transparency and honest communication has morphed into something entirely different.

What’s all the hush about?

Now the world is more attuned to corporate greenwashing, getting away with unsubstantiated green creds isn’t quite as easy as it used to be. As well as new greenwashing legislation that comes into effect next year, there’s also been a general increase in public awareness about environmental and climate issues. As a result, an increasing number of businesses are staying silent about their goals and achievements in this area. This has been dubbed ‘green hushing’ – intentionally not communicating your sustainability initiatives.

So why the mother nature is it happening?

In short, it all comes down to fear of public scrutiny or legal retribution. Businesses that don’t have any green initiatives or targets in place, or those previously caught out for greenwashing, are staying silent to avoid attention – and behaviour change.

But there’s another, equally worrying, side to this: some businesses with genuine, robust climate targets are also keeping quiet. It sets a dangerous precedent and creates a barrier for progress – if businesses with valid environmental credentials don’t feel confident enough to communicate their good practice, then who can we rely on to lead the way?

The new normal

In 2022 climate consultancy, South Pole, surveyed 1,200 Green companies across 12 countries for their annual report. A quarter of those surveyed said they would not publicise their net zero emissions goals, even when they had developed science-based targets.

Two years on, South Pole’s latest report states that green hushing is now the new normal. It’s a terrifying thought, with 44% of companies surveyed saying external communication on climate targets has become more difficult in the past year alone, and 58% decreasing communications as a result.

It’s time to talk

If allowed to grow unchecked, green hushing will damage our ability to meet the global targets aimed at mitigating the impacts of climate change – which, in turn, impacts every industry and every one of us. The last year of crop failures due to extreme weather are just one example. These recurring events will continue to drive up the cost of producing and consuming products, hurting both consumers and businesses alike. If corporations actively choose to be part of the solution to climate change, their efforts can make a massive difference to all our futures.

In our upcoming panel discussion, we’ll be talking about how brands can communicate their sustainability goals with confidence, avoid green hushing, and position themselves at the forefront of positive climate action.

The webinar will be hosted by our Senior Strategist, Bella Ali-Khan; she will be joined by Maggie Wong from climate consultancy South Pole and Rose Scanlon-Jones, Content and Community Manager from Foodsteps. More panellists are to be announced.

To be part of the conversation, register here.

References/ sources:
– Destination Zero: the state of corporate climate action. The South Pole 2023/2024 Net Zero Report via https://www.southpole.com/publications/destination-net-zero-report
– Financial Times via https://www.ft.com/content/5fd513c3-e23f-4daa-817e-aa32cf6d18d4

🏷️ Watch our latest webinar session on Carbon Labelling and what it means for brands.