Unveiling the Trust About Greenhushing: What it Means for the Environment and Company’s Reputation

Astutis’ Technical Director, Brenig Moore, analyses the latest environmental terms and the effects they have on humanity’s attempt to curb climate change. Are portions of society becoming environmentally alienated?

2023 is steadily progressing. But as our most recent environmental blogs have concluded, the fight against climate change has now entered the end game. If we don’t do enough now, the damage will be too significant to reverse.  

What society needs more than ever is consistency. If we all do our little bit, the contribution will be incredible. 

For everyone’s contribution to bear fruit, we should support and herald the efforts of those proactively enforcing positive change. This should go for organisations and individuals alike.

Yet, new terms come to my attention as the year marches on. The notable term that engaged me was ‘greenhushing’. 

If you have never heard of it, you are not alone. 

Environmentalist and author Alex Steffen coined the term “greenhushing” in 2007. It combines the words “greenwashing” and “hush-hush.” 

Greenhushing describes when companies deliberately underreport their green or environmental initiatives to avoid scrutiny. 

The scrutiny could stem from parties who allege greenwashing or suggest an attempt to manipulate the environmental issue for improved public relations. 

Reports have been published that indicate greenhushing is holding influence over corporate decision-making.

Ultimately, the notion of greenhushing originates from a place of fear that companies could face widespread backlash for reporting their ESG (environmental, social, governance) strategies. 

Could the impact of public scrutiny deter organisations from introducing progressive environmental initiatives in the future? This is the most critical question from green-hushing – Could it delay the vital progress we need society to make to rescue the environment?

To begin, we should isolate the state of play from the environment. 

In some of our content, we have highlighted the necessity of keeping the rise of Earth’s temperature within 1.5C. If the temperature rise above that, environmentalists and scientists conclude that the damage will be irrecoverable. 

The notion of greenhushing is a direct result of the impacts of greenwashing. So let’s combat the problem at its source by understanding how to curb greenwashing. 

  1. Transparency: Companies can combat greenhushing by being transparent about their environmental impact and what they are doing to address it. This means providing detailed information about their sustainability efforts, including carbon footprint, energy use, and waste generation data.
  2. Accountability: Companies can hold themselves accountable by setting measurable goals and regularly reporting progress. This can include publishing sustainability reports, disclosing information on environmental impact, and conducting third-party audits.
  3. Collaboration: Companies can partner with stakeholders, including customers, suppliers, and advocacy groups, to work collaboratively to address environmental issues. This can build stakeholders’ trust and credibility and demonstrate a sustainability commitment.
  4. Innovation: Companies can combat greenhushing by developing innovative solutions to environmental problems. This can include investing in renewable energy, adopting new technologies, and using sustainable materials.
  5. Education: Companies can educate their employees, customers, and suppliers on the importance of sustainability and how they can positively impact it. This can include training on eco-friendly practices, creating educational resources, and promoting sustainability initiatives internally and externally.

Greenhushing can stem from several factors, such as a lack of commitment to sustainability, a reluctance to invest in costly eco-friendly measures, a desire to maintain the status quo, or simply a lack of awareness or knowledge about the environmental impact of their operations.