There is no doubt that ESG has become a major topic of concern for both businesses and consumers. With increased awareness of the negative impact of human activities on the environment, there has been a push towards sustainable practices and products. However, not all companies are making genuine efforts to reduce their carbon footprint, conserve resources, and improve the well-being of society. Some have resorted to a practice that became known as “greenwashing,” which involves making false or misleading claims about the environmental benefits of their products or services.
Over the past few years, “greenwashing” received much deserved backlash with businesses resorting to it getting severe criticism. Unfortunately, it has also affected well-meaning businesses and sustainability practices overall. As a result, many companies now tend to keep quiet about their ESG goals and sustainability efforts. This newly emerged trend is now knows as “greenhushing”, and it’s growing more widespread than one could imagine.
According to Financial Times, a whopping 25% of the 1,200 companies in 12 countries surveyed said they would not publicise their science-based net zero emissions targets, a road map for reducing emissions in line with the goals of the Paris agreement, said climate consultancy and carbon offsets developer South Pole. This was despite the proportion of respondents setting science-based targets that had more than tripled from the previous year to 72 per cent. So, more companies are working towards their ESG goals but much less are choosing to speak about it.
Greenhushing has grown into the practice of not talking about a company’s sustainability efforts and avoiding any reference to environmental or social concerns. This is in stark contrast to greenwashing, which involves making exaggerated or false claims about a company’s sustainability initiatives.
Clearly, the rise of green hushing is due to the growing scepticism among consumers towards companies that make grand promises about their sustainability efforts. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the greenwashing practices and are less likely to trust companies that make false claims about their sustainability efforts. As a result, companies are now opting to keep quiet about their sustainability efforts, instead of risking being accused of greenwashing.
However, this approach also has its drawbacks. By not talking about their sustainability efforts, companies may be missing out on an opportunity to demonstrate their commitment to ESG and sustainability. Moreover, not talking about their sustainability efforts may also hinder the progress of the entire sustainability movement, as it limits the visibility of what companies are doing to address environmental and social concerns.
There are some more reasons for companies to greenhush. As Small99 points out, the issue is made worse by the unattainability of sustainability certifications to many small businesses. The easiest way to avoid greenwashing and associated accusations would be, obviously, by confirming the legitimacy of companies’ sustainability practices via certification.. However, the certification process can be expensive and time-consuming for small businesses as it involves thorough research and data collecting. Lack of certification can undermine the confidence of small businesses in their sustainability initiatives and can lead to their reluctance to report them. This is exactly the issue ESG Bay is aiming to solve with its certification platform. Try the free Beta version now.
So while greenhushing is an organic response to greenwashing, it is not an answer, and we expect it to become the thing of the past as the industry matures and ESG reporting and certifications become widely available and mainstream.