The justifiable crackdown on greenwashing by governments on some of the world’s largest brands has led to some organisations deliberately underreporting their climate efforts in order to avoid scrutiny, writes Thom Wilkinson, a Partner in our Property and Environmental Law team.
‘Greenhushing’ is the new phrase that refers to the act of downplaying or concealing positive environmental practices or achievements. In its way it could be just as counter productive as exaggerating carbon reduction achievements if it results in a lack of transparency and accountability in sustainability reporting.
Greenhushing can take many forms, such as failing to report on environmental impacts or not disclosing material environmental risks or achievements.
Downplaying or concealing positive environmental practices or achievements can leave key stakeholders in the dark about your environmental impact. This lack of transparency can erode trust and confidence in your organisation’s sustainability efforts and damage its reputation.
It can also prevent clients from making informed decisions about your products or services. Consumers are increasingly environmentally conscious and looking for sustainable products and services that align with their values. By concealing or minimising positive environmental practices or achievements, your organisation may miss out on opportunities to attract and retain environmentally conscious customers. With over 70 per cent of consumers considering sustainability in their purchasing decisions, organisations need to recognise the dangers of greenhushing and take steps to prevent it.
Alongside the negative impact on stakeholder trust and reputation, greenhushing can have broader consequences on the environment. Downplaying or avoiding an effective transition towards becoming a sustainable business can create poor environmental reporting practices, which makes it difficult to track progress towards sustainability goals and identify areas for improvement.
So where does all that leave us now that COP28 has ended in Dubai and we contemplate what next to prevent the planet from heating up to over 1.5 degrees C, from pre-industrial levels? (We’re already at 1.2 degrees C) according to the Economist.
The Economist reported COP28 as a rare success in that, “198 delegates all agreed, against a backdrop of wars in Ukraine and the Gaza strip, both of which worsened divisions between the rich and poor worlds… to explicitly move away from using fossil fuels in energy systems… The plenary rose in applause. Outside the desert sun beat down… The world’s largest gas-fired power plant, just a stone’s throw away, ran on regardless.”
It’s easy to be a naysayer.
But we all need to understand the environmental impacts of the industrial age and act accordingly. As the 17th century philosopher Edmund Burke is attributed as saying, “The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”
2024 is no year to be greenwashing, or greenhushing, our environmental actions.
Contact our Property Team
If you would like to discuss any of the points raised in this article, please do get in contact, quoting ref CB442. Thom Wilkinson is a Partner specialising in Property and Environmental Law and is contactable on: +44 020 7692 7581 or email@example.com
The above is accurate as at 15 January 2024. The information above may be subject to change.
The content of this note should not be considered legal advice and each matter should be considered on a case-by-case basis.