The new, negative sustainability trend—green hushing. Similar to that of greenwashing, or the incorrect exaggeration/ labeling of a process, product, or procedure that is in fact not sustainable. This term can bring public outrage, company scrutiny, and in some extreme cases, legal action. Now, another wave of company negligence is taking hold in the form of green hushing. Green hushing is the practice in which companies do not disclose the extent of their sustainability progress or commitment for fear of said scrutiny.
Professor of sustainability marketing at the University of Surrey in the U.K., Xavier Font, first saw this term back in 2017 before he started studying the practice more closely. Then in October of 2022, Swiss carbon finance consultancy South Pole, discussed the trend of green hushing in a published report. It carried on to state that nearly a quarter of 1,200 companies with a sustainability lead are not publicizing their achievements or met goals. The report deemed the trend to be concerning to the world of sustainability, as published accomplishments or even setbacks have been noted to inspire and encourage collaborative approaches. To follow up, Font conducted a study that consisted of 31 small rural tourism businesses within England's Peak District National Park, and found that companies communicated only 30% of their sustainability actions to their consumers. In response, he mentioned that these companies may be in fear of alluding to an inadequate vacation experience by stating their full trajectory. Some companies he had worked in discussion with stated that they were unsure when to state their achievements— at 50% complete or fully complete. Some supermarkets stopped labeling certain goods as ‘fair trade’ because customers started to question the validity of other goods.
“In the U.S., a report found that while 71% of S&P 500 companies report their greenhouse gas emissions, only 28% of smaller companies do so. And only 15% of S&P 500 companies disclose information on biodiversity and deforestation, and 12% on water risks.” — published source.
In good news, climate disclosures will become mandatory for a wider array of companies in 2025 across the EU. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission plans to implement stricter regulations for larger corporations by 2024. In France, new greenwashing laws will place fines on companies that mislead or give false statements on sustainability-related entities, such as being carbon neutral. These actions can help reduce both greenwashing and green hushing, while keeping the inspiration for consumers alive.