The New Trend of Green-hushing

Companies are increasingly choosing not to publicise their climate targets, in order to avoid scrutiny and allegations of greenwashing.

A survey of 1200 companies in 12 countries by South Pole, a Swiss carbon finance consultancy, has revealed that a quarter of them would not publicise their net zero science-based emissions targets and other sustainability goals, in a growing trend termed green-hushing.

The large number of ESG-related lawsuits against companies such as Total, Delta Airlines, Shell, Tesla and several others, has prompted some companies are now choosing not to communicate their sustainability goals.

Green-hushing has been around since at least 2017 but has become more widespread after the publications of South Pole’s report, in October 2022.

The integrity of the frameworks used to measure sustainability is also under scrutiny. The Science Based Targets Initiative is facing complaints about governance and conflicts of interest, as it charges companies to assess their climate targets. Companies are also unsure of when to announce their achievements, and how to justify their focus on certain aspects of sustainability and have a credible message to convey.

Larger companies in particular can avoid greenwashing litigation by not reporting extensively on their sustainability targets and achievements, as highlighted by Dasani’s claim that its water bottles are 100% recyclable.

South Pole also found that although companies may not be communicating their sustainability and climate achievements and plans, they are still forging ahead with achieving their targets. Three-quarters of the companies surveyed have increased their net-zero budgets since December 2021, and many are also hiring new staff and training their sustainability teams. One-third of the surveyed companies admit not being on track, and plan to increase their efforts significantly, in order to achieve their targets.

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