One in four companies practising ‘greenhushing’, research finds

24th May 2023

A quarter of large and medium-sized companies in Great Britain have hidden their sustainability credentials – also known as ‘greenhushing’ – over the last 12 months, new research suggests.

After surveying more than 1,000 senior decision makers, the researchers found that 23.6% of those from medium and large companies felt their business had under-communicated sustainability goals or initiatives since April 2022.

The main reason given for greenhushing was the need to balance financial and sustainability objectives – suggesting that the latter are being deprioritised.

Steve Andrews, CEO of environmental charity Earthwatch Europe, which commissioned the research, said business leaders must be open to receiving constructive criticism, and prioritise 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,” he continued.

“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.”

The term greenhushing was first coined as far back as 2008, with a growing number of business leaders fearing their sustainability commitments will be perceived as insincere, or as deliberately deceiving the public in pursuit of higher market share and profit.

This fear has been driven by greater scrutiny by the public, regulators, and investors.

A poll by consultancy firm South Pole in October last year also found that one in four companies with science-based emission reduction targets have engaged in greenhushing, suggesting that leaders on climate action are also keeping quiet about their credentials.

“If a quarter today aren't coming forward with details on what makes their target credible, could corporate green-hushing be spreading?” said Renat Heuberger, CEO of South Pole. “The speed at which we are overshooting our planetary boundaries is mind-blowing.

“More than ever, we need the companies making progress on sustainability to inspire their peers to make a start. This is impossible if progress is happening in silence.”

Image credit: Shutterstock

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