How companies use green hushing as a protection mechanism against greenwashing and what the consequences are
Author: House of Eden
- Green hushing phenomenon as a counterpoint to greenwashing
- A quarter of companies do not publish their climate targets
- Green hushing can damage your image
Greenwashing is a phenomenon that has been known for a long time: companies claim in public that they work in a sustainable and environmentally conscious manner, but a closer look behind the scenes reveals that this is not the case. Also known as "SDG dressing" or "bluewashing" in English-speaking countries, referring to specific types of greenwashing. In these cases an abuse of the goals of the United Nations is meant. Now a new phenomenon is emerging that can be seen as the antithesis to greenwashing: green hushing.
What is Green Hushing?
Many companies are following the increasingly loud call for more climate protection. For example, they set themselves goals to work carbon neutral in the near future. While most companies communicate these goals publicly, there are also outliers that keep their climate goals behind closed doors - a phenomenon known as green hushing. The phenomenon arose to protect themselves from possible accusations of greenwashing if they do not manage to achieve the climate goals they have set themselves.
Setting goals raises the level of anticipation and scrutiny from the public in search of the next scandal. Sustainable products also bring with them a certain ecological image that some companies do not want to identify with. Sustainability is now also taken for granted and is therefore an increasingly rare topic for marketing. Companies therefore have a different focus in their communication strategies.
South Pole study shows Green Hushing in numbers
In 2022, South Pole has one Net Zero Report published, which scrutinizes companies that have a social responsibility. In total, South Pole has researched and interviewed over 1.200 companies from twelve different countries worldwide. About a quarter of the companies surveyed worldwide decided against publishing the climate targets. In Germany, there are even more - in this country, about a third of the companies hide their internal climate targets.
This is problematic because sharing goals helps develop consistent standards and best practices that can then be applied across the industry by other companies. Good news: the majority of companies are still willing to publish their own goals. Around two-thirds of the companies surveyed worldwide said they want to be carbon-neutral by 2030. A small minority, around 13%, even want to achieve these goals by 2024.
Does green hushing damage the image of companies?
When companies keep their climate goals private, it erodes their public perception. Nonetheless, many feel that this is precisely what is needed to avoid a public outcry. But how helpful is it to hide your own climate plans? Public perception is a powerful force when evaluating companies - and it's not just about scientifically based facts. Above all, trust in companies and their credibility often play a much greater role.
Companies that consciously decide to hide their climate targets generally inspire less trust than those that openly and transparently communicate their targets and failures. The big problem with green hushing is that consumers and business partners often cannot assess how much the companies are committed to climate protection. This understandably leads to the suspicion that they are not committed to climate protection - even if the opposite is true.