Greenhushing: Exploring the Silent Side of Sustainability

Greenhushing: Exploring the Silent Side of Sustainability

In the evolving discourse around corporate sustainability, two terms have gained prominence, albeit for different reasons – greenwashing and greenhushing. While the former has been widely discussed, its less known counterpart, greenhushing, is emerging as a pivotal concept in the sustainability narrative. This article delves into the essence of greenhushing, distinguishing it from greenwashing, and uncovering its benefits, implications, and ways businesses can navigate this landscape with integrity and transparency.

What is the Meaning of Greenhushing?

Greenhushing refers to the practice where companies underreport or deliberately withhold information about their environmental efforts and achievements. This phenomenon stems from various motivations, including fear of criticism, scepticism, and the desire to avoid the spotlight until substantial results are achieved. Unlike greenwashing, which exaggerates sustainability claims, greenhushing keeps them in the shadows, often leaving stakeholders in the dark about a company’s environmental impact and initiatives.

The Difference Between Greenwashing and Greenhushing

The primary distinction between greenwashing and greenhushing lies in their approach to communicating sustainability efforts. Greenwashing involves overstating or fabricating a company's environmental initiatives to appear more eco-friendly than it actually is. Conversely, greenhushing occurs when companies downplay or conceal their genuine sustainability achievements. While both practices distort the truth, they do so from opposite ends of the spectrum.

Benefits of Greenhushing?

Some argue that greenhushing can shield companies from undue scrutiny or criticism until their sustainability projects reach fruition. This cautious approach allows businesses to refine their environmental strategies without the pressure of public expectations. However, this silence can also hinder stakeholder engagement and transparency, essential components of trust and corporate responsibility.

What is Greenshifting?

Greenshifting refers to shifting responsibility for environmental sustainability from corporations to consumers or other stakeholders. This tactic diverts attention from the company’s own environmental impacts and places the onus on individuals or society to drive change. While related, greenshifting and greenhushing are distinct, as the latter focuses on under-communication rather than redirection.

An Example of Greenhushing

A classic example of greenhushing could involve a company that significantly reduces its carbon footprint or invests in renewable energy but chooses not to publicise these efforts. The company might fear backlash or accusations of greenwashing and opts for silence instead, thus practising greenhushing.

Why is Greenhushing?

Companies may resort to greenhushing out of a genuine concern for being labelled as greenwashers. The competitive nature of the market and the stringent scrutiny of environmental claims can also prompt businesses to underplay their sustainability credentials. Additionally, some organisations prefer to achieve more substantial, measurable results before publicising their efforts.

"In today's rapidly evolving sustainability landscape, genuine efforts and transparent communication are not just commendable; they're imperative for fostering trust and demonstrating leadership. At Net Zero Now, we understand the hesitation many businesses feel towards sharing their environmental milestones. The fear of premature scrutiny or being accused of greenwashing can be paralysing. However, we firmly believe in celebrating every step of the journey towards sustainability, no matter how small. Our platform is designed to empower businesses to accurately track, manage, and articulate their carbon reduction achievements with utmost confidence. We provide the tools and support needed to navigate the complexities of sustainability reporting, ensuring that our clients can share their progress without fear of scepticism. It's time for companies to embrace their environmental narratives with pride, knowing that their genuine efforts contribute significantly to our collective journey towards a more sustainable future." - Andrea Piras, Head of Demand Generation at Net Zero Now

Julie Gordon , COO at Nine23 adds: “Net Zero Now provided a user-friendly platform that enabled us to input data on our overall consumption. The platform offered tools for tracking key performance indicators related to environmental impacts, such as carbon footprint, energy consumption, and waste generation. By utilizing Net Zero Now, Nine23 was able to streamline its data collection process, ensure accuracy in reporting, and gain valuable insights into the effectiveness of its sustainability efforts.

Moreover, Net Zero Now enabled us to generate detailed reports that showcased our environmental achievements and areas for improvement - clearly and repeatably. These reports helped us demonstrate our commitment to sustainability and allowed stakeholders, including customers, investors, and regulatory bodies, to gain a better understanding of Nine23's overall environmental performance.

In summary, Net Zero Now played a crucial role in helping us overcome underreporting challenges by providing a robust platform for tracking, monitoring, and reporting sustainability achievements. By using Net Zero Now, Nine23 was able to confidently showcase its environmental efforts and enhance transparency in its sustainability reporting practices.” 

"As a certified B Corporation, transparency in our approach to environmental and social impact reporting is incredibly important. We certified as a B Corp in January 2024, one of only 4 law firms in the UK Top 100. This shone a spotlight on us. Our own people and the wider industry wanted evidence to show our genuine commitment to sustainability and have a plan to reach net zero. One example was a journalist requesting statistics to back up our claims. I was able to use our carbon reduction report from Net Zero Now to communicate our emissions and our related reduction plans. Specifically Scope 3 emissions are not easy to tackle and, due the locations of our offices, the emissions from our employee commute are relatively high. We’d rather know this about our business and be clear with ourselves on the options we have for reducing or removing emissions. The data empowers us to make informed decisions, track our progress and consult our employees so they feel part of the solution too" - Liz Carter, Purpose & Impact Manager at Cripps.

She also shared: "Our previous carbon accounting covered Scope 1 and 2 only. With Net Zero Now we have the full picture. The platform allows us to see our exact carbon emissions across Scopes and we can quickly and easily share information on a particular Scope or item. The platform is intuitive and enables us to input our information in an efficient and regular manner, eliminating the need for a vast number of complicated spreadsheets for each emission factor or building. By enabling us to enter our emissions data monthly, we have up-to-date reporting that we can share instantly in team meetings and use to demonstrate progress to the business. Having transparency is really important to us so we can see where we can make the most positive difference. This is particularly true for our supply chain emissions which is something we did not have sight of previously".

Navigating Greenhushing with the Right Support

As we explore the pathways to transparently sharing our sustainability achievements, it's essential to recognise the role of dedicated support in this journey. Emily  Tradd, Head of Customer Success at Net Zero Now, shares her insights on how our team works hand-in-hand with users to overcome the challenges of greenhushing.

"Seeing our users transition from cautious to confident in sharing their sustainability stories is a driving force behind what we do each day. Our team's personalised approach ensures that every Net Zero Now user feels supported, informed, and ready to make their silent efforts heard. It's about more than just tracking and reporting; it's about building a community that celebrates every step towards sustainability. Communicating action towards a more sustainable future helps to set a precedent and new normal,” said Emily Tradd, Head of Customer Success at Net Zero Now.

Greenhushing can be avoided with the support of a knowledgeable climate team and the use of reliable carbon accounting software. By accurately measuring and reporting sustainability achievements, businesses can communicate their environmental efforts with confidence and transparency. Net Zero Now offers the tools and expertise needed for companies to showcase their genuine commitment to sustainability, ensuring that their silent efforts speak volumes.

By embracing open and honest communication about environmental initiatives, businesses can foster a culture of accountability and progress towards a truly sustainable future.