Experts Predict 'Greenhushing' Will Be a Big Eco-Trend In 2023. What Is It? Companies have become more reticent about publicizing their sustainability accomplishments.

By Jonathan Small

In the beginning, there was greenwashing, and it was bad.

Companies made bold claims about being environmentally conscious for marketing purposes, but they weren't making any serious sustainability efforts.

But some experts say greenwashing has given way to another disturbing corporate sustainability trend — greenhushing.

What is greenhushing?

Greenhushing is when a company doesn't publicize its environmental accomplishments. Unlike greenwashing, in which companies exaggerate their sustainable policies, greenhushers are hush-hush about sustainability policies even existing.

A 2022 report by climate consultancy South Pole found that of the 1200 private companies they surveyed that are considered global climate leaders, nearly a quarter did not publicize their eco achievements and milestones.

Most analysts agree greenhushing is happening more often than ever before. But there is some debate over why.

Nicola Stopps, CEO of consultancy company Simply Sustainable, believes it is due to fear of bad press.

"Because of social media and the speed of news, these days [a company's] reputation can be impacted dramatically very quickly," Stopps told Raconteur. "The public and stakeholders are definitely becoming more educated and aware and savvy… companies need to take this a lot more seriously."

In recent years, companies such as McDonald's and Volkswagen were raked over the coals by the media for greenwashing their sustainable policies. These companies would rather remain silent about the environment than incur the wrath of environmental watchdogs, Stopps says.

Renat Heuberger, the CEO of South Pole, agrees, but in South Pole's annual report, he asks: "Could the...growing threat of lawsuits be deterring companies who are voluntarily setting targets from being more open?"

South Pole's report points to other possible motivations for greenhushing, including that companies are unsure they have what it takes to meet their goals so they don't want to talk about them or that companies lack the technical skills and confidence to talk about complex climate efforts.

Related: 4 Reasons Sustainability Will Benefit Your Business and Satisfy The Growing Trend of Green-Hungry Customers

Net zero goals, but nobody's talking about them

If there is any silver lining for corporate sustainability in 2023, it's that most companies have net-zero policies. According to the South Pole survey, 72% of all respondents said they had set a science-based-target (SBT) towards corporate sustainability, climate, or greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction.

"Long gone are the days when announcing a corporate net zero emissions target was exceptional. Today it is expected,"

wrote Heuberger.

In 2023, you can also expect that many companies won't publicly discuss their SBT.

Jonathan Small

Entrepreneur Staff

Editor in Chief of Green Entrepreneur

Jonathan Small is editor-in-chief of Green Entrepreneur, a vertical from Entrepreneur Media focused on the intersection of sustainability and business. He is also an award-winning journalist, producer, and podcast host of the upcoming True Crime series, Dirty Money, and Write About Now podcasts. Jonathan is the founder of Strike Fire Productions, a premium podcast production company. He had held editing positions at Glamour, Stuff, Fitness, and Twist Magazines. His stories have appeared in The New York Times, TV Guide, Cosmo, Details, and Good Housekeeping. Previously, Jonathan served as VP of Content for the GSN (the Game Show Network), where he produced original digital video series.

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