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The secretive practice of greenhushing: what is it and why we should care

Updated: Sep 12, 2023

You have probably heard about "greenwashing" - when companies pretend to be environmentally friendly through deceptive marketing and PR.


But have you heard of its lesser-known cousin, "greenhushing"? This trend involves companies downplaying or hiding their positive environmental actions, which can be just as damaging to the planet. Let’s see why.

Greenhushing

What is Greenhushing?


Greenhushing works like this: a company makes substantive green changes to its practices, like using renewable energy or sustainable materials, but does little to publicize or promote these efforts.


This silence and secrecy allow them to avoid drawing attention to other parts of their operations that are less eco-friendly.


On its surface, greenhushing seems counterintuitive. Why wouldn't a company want credit for the good stuff they are doing? Some argue that silence provides cover for them to keep less sustainable practices going unnoticed. Others see it as a way to dodge public pressure to improve in those areas.


Where do we see Greenhushing in action?


Greenhushing shows up across various sectors, from fashion to technology and beyond.

A clothing brand might use organic cotton or eco-friendly dyes for some clothing lines but not advertise those changes.


An electronics company could invest in wind power for facilities but downplay it in sustainability reports. An auto manufacturer may increase fuel efficiency across models but make those gains invisible to consumers through a lack of marketing.


In each case, substantive green efforts are being made under the radar without emphasis or visibility.


Greenhushing in action: Real-World examples


Unfortunately, greenhushing is more than just a theoretical issue - it is already happening across industries.


Take asset manager BlackRock, which quietly scrubbed its website of previous climate commitments. Or beer maker AB InBev that stopped advertising its net zero and recycling goals amid public tensions.


In all these cases, substantive green initiatives took a backseat to silent secrecy, allowing business as usual to continue unchecked.


These real-world examples of major brands illustrate how greenhushing allows environmental progress to stagnate through a lack of transparency.


Green Hushing

Why should you care about Greenhushing?


At first glance, greenhushing may not seem like an urgent issue. Nevertheless, this under-the-radar activity can have real consequences:

  • Legitimate sustainability initiatives don't get acknowledged or replicated

  • Lack of transparency breeds consumer distrust

  • Dirty practices continue unchecked without incentive to improve

  • Overall progress on environmental goals is slowed

For these reasons, shining a light on greenhushing is crucial. Even if complete transparency is not realistic, consumers and regulators should demand a fuller picture of corporate sustainability efforts - both good and bad.


Join the movement for transparency acting against Greenhushing


At U-Earth Biotech, we believe that unraveling the damaging effects of greenhushing and greenwashing alike will require a collective effort.


Every individual and organization has a role to play in pushing for radical transparency and accountability.


Here are some impactful ways you can join the movement to combat greenhushing and catalyze real environmental progress:

  • Support strengthened policies: advocate for reasonable regulations that promote more detailed and standardized sustainability reporting.

  • Request transparency: politely encourage companies through social media, petitions, purchasing decisions, and other means to be more transparent about their sustainability efforts.

  • Foster open dialogues: have thoughtful, solutions-oriented conversations on corporate social responsibility and mindful consumerism.

  • Take action: as a person, support virtuous examples by making responsible shopping choices.

At the end of the day, small steps toward authentic corporate sustainability can catalyze bigger waves of change: this will only happen through honesty, accountability, and public engagement.


Breathe easier with transparency


At U-Earth Biotech, we’ve also come across some greenhushing practices on air pollution. We met companies that under-communicated their air purification goals, as they feared being judged.


We believe radical transparency and accountability are the only paths forward. Reaching a 50% decontamination goal is better than a 0% score. Together, we can create a culture of openness that values every positive step, even small ones.


By spreading awareness of greenhushing and demanding truth from corporations, we can drive real change. Breathe freely knowing we stand with you for air without deception. The future is transparent.

U-Earth Blog

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