From ‘greenwashing’ to ‘greenhushing’

The changing landscape of environmental reporting

By now, you’ve heard of ‘greenwashing’, but are you familiar with ‘greenhushing?’

The chickens have come home to roost for corporate greenwashers and not a moment too soon. The practice once spelled only reputational risk, but has been increasingly resulting in legal liability.

Posted by
Mark Paterson

According to the ACCC, two-thirds of Australia’s food and drink businesses have made ‘concerning’ claims online about their environmental or sustainability practices. The ACCC will now investigate these businesses and others, particularly from the two next worst-offending sectors (cosmetics and clothing & footwear). Did you know there is even an advertising code governing environmental claims?

‘Businesses using broad claims like ‘environmentally friendly’, ‘green’, or ‘sustainable’ are obliged to back up these claims through reliable scientific reports, transparent supply chain information, reputable third-party certification, or other forms of evidence’, the ACCC said.

In this context, the corporate world has grown conspicuously silent on environmental issues – a phenomenon dubbed: ‘greenhushing’ (one of six types of greenwashing identified in a 2023 report from Planet Tracker. Rather than running the risks implied by greenwashing, businesses are opting to remove and/or edit sustainability reports on their websites. They’re thinking twice before communicating about climate action, human rights, and deforestation in their supply chains.

The point is that sustainability storytelling and reporting is not marketing. At Currie, we tell our client’s to start with the facts and to craft a story from the truth.

In the case of climate action, the truth can be grounded in an assessment of a company’s climate-related financial risks and corroborated by science-based targets, scenario-based action plans and audited reports.

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