Have you heard of green hushing? It’s a relatively new sustainability trend that’s gained in popularity recently. Green hushing refers to the practice of misinforming consumers and masking the real environmental costs of production and consumption by promoting ‘green’ agendas or alternate solutions that aren’t actually sustainable.
What is Greenwashing?
It refers to the practice of companies making false, exaggerated or misleading claims about how environmentally friendly their products and services are. These false claims or messages, also known as “green hushing,” draw public scrutiny and sometimes outrage, leading to legal action in some cases. Examples of businesses accused of greenwashing include Dasani, Kroger and Whole Foods.
WHAT IS GREEN HUSHING?
It is a term used to describe companies who choose not to speak about the sustainability goals they may have come up with, even if their objectives are good and well-meaning. This way of thinking is in stark opposition to greenwashing, which is where companies falsely boast about how responsible they are. Xavier Font, professor of sustainability marketing at the University of Surrey in the U.K., explains green hushing as “the deliberate downplaying of your sustainability practices for fear that it will make your company look less competent, or have a negative consequence for you.”
HOW LONG HAS THIS TERM BEEN AROUND, AND HOW COMMON IS IT?
Green hushing – a practice of deliberately avoiding any mention of sustainability in the hope of avoiding looking less competent or having any negative consequences – is much more common than one might think, according to Xavier Font, professor of sustainability marketing at the University of Surrey in the U.K. While he had only heard of green hushing once before, he believes it has been around since 2017 or earlier and plays an important role in the on-going battle for environmental conservation.
WHAT OTHER FORCES ARE AT PLAY?
In Europe, pressure is mounting on companies to cease any practices of greenwashing, which is the deliberate misrepresentation of products or activities as eco-friendly. Similarly, in the United States, companies have an additional factor to take into account — they must consider the implications of any political decision when coming up with marketing strategies.
WHAT COULD REDUCE GREEN HUSHING?
What can be done to reduce green hushing? One solution could be the conservation and protection of existing green spaces, which ensures that cities remain full of natural flora and fauna. Additionally, localized vegetation projects also help to reduce green hushing. Moreover, cities could implement urban green infrastructure initiatives such as planting trees alongside roads and green roofs on building structures. These measures create habitats for wildlife and have the potential to reduce air pollution levels, improving the overall atmosphere of urban environments.
WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF GREEN HUSHING?
The consequences of greenwashing can be detrimental, as companies wishing to work towards a more sustainable future may face criticism from ‘greenwashing truthers’, no matter their actual actions or intentions. Additionally, greenwashing crackdowns may be widespread and indiscriminate, preventing positive changes from occurring as perfectly legitimate sustainability messages are lost amid the criticism. Ultimately, it is ideal for companies to openly discuss their climate actions so that positive environmental change can be created.