Greenwashing, green hushing, green botching and greenwishing. These are just a few of the ‘green’ terms that are quickly becoming everyday language within the world of sustainability. Accordingly, as the economy undergoes sustainable transition, it is highly recommended that leaders on business and sustainability have a thorough understanding of the below terms to ensure they are ahead of the curve on all things green.
Before we delve into each definition of greenwashing related terms, here is a summary of the key green-related terms:
- Greenwashing is a term used to describe the practice of making false or exaggerated environmental claims that do not align with the company's actual practices or values. This deceptive tactic is used by companies to mislead consumers into thinking that their environmental efforts are more significant than they actually are.
- Green hushing is the go-to term to describe when a company does not communicate, or is very quiet, about their sustainability accomplishments. Companies who engage in ‘green hushing’ intentionally do not disclose their sustainability goals, progress or achievements due to the fear of making the company look less competent, or being labelled as ‘greenwashing’.
- Green botching occurs when well-meant sustainability actions are implemented so poorly that they cause a company more harm than good. Green botching often sees businesses implementing a sustainability strategy with good intentions, yet due to a lack of resources or knowledge, the company’s efforts ultimately fall short of reaping the long-term strategic benefits of sustainability.
- Greenwishing is a term used to describe situations where a company or individual acts with the right moral motive, but receives no significant benefit. Businesses who ‘greenwish’ often have sustainable-intentions, yet lack a solid sustainability strategy with unattainable targets.
What is greenwashing?
Greenwashing is a term used to describe the practice of making false or exaggerated environmental claims that do not align with the company's actual practices or values. This deceptive tactic is used by companies to mislead consumers into thinking that their environmental efforts are more significant than they actually are.
‘Greenwashing’ has increasingly become one of the most utilised terms related to corporate sustainability due to increasing consumer concerns and regulatory requirements surrounding sustainability. While addressing climate change will ultimately continue to grow in urgency, the negative connotations associated with ‘greenwashing’ become more and more widespread as such practices ultimately exacerbate the detrimental effects of climate change whilst creating vast distrust in corporations. When corporations practice greenwashing, all stakeholders of climate change, such as consumers, investors, employees, and other interested parties, cannot be sure which environmental claims represent genuine impact and which claims are misleading, thus creating a significant level of doubt surrounding corporate sustainability claims.
In a world where 46% of consumers are looking towards brands to lead the way on sustainability issues, increasing demand for companies to prioritise sustainability efforts and avoid greenwashing. Meanwhile, whilst there are several regulations and policies already in place that aim to combat greenwashing, the European Union will continue to introduce stringent regulations to avoid such practices.
Forthcoming IFRS S1 and IFRS S2 standards issued by the International Sustainability Standards Board (ISSB) will ultimately set uniform sustainability and climate standards for companies to follow globally from 2024. The introduction of such standards mitigates the harm associated with poor data quality and lack of common standards which previously allowed companies to overstate their climate credentials, or ‘greenwash’. As such, companies who make misleading environmental claims face potential penalties of up to 4% of their annual revenue.
What is green hushing?
With research stating that 42% of green claims were exaggerated, false, or deceptive, greenwashing has quickly become an industrial scale issue. Meanwhile, greenwashing is increasingly posing immense financial and non-financial risk to companies of all sizes, across a range of industries worldwide. In light of the vast potential for greenwashing claims to cause long-term financial and reputational damage, companies are increasingly understating and/or underplaying their environmental claims. Accordingly, a new ‘green’ term to describe this has quickly gained traction.
Green hushing is the go-to term to describe when a company does not communicate, or is very quiet, about their sustainability accomplishments. Companies who engage in ‘green hushing’ intentionally do not disclose their sustainability goals, progress or achievements due to the fear of making the company look less competent, or being labelled as ‘greenwashing’. Surprisingly, green hushing does not only apply to those who are behind the curve on sustainability; companies with plausible or well-intentioned climate strategies in place are increasingly not publicising their sustainability progress to not only avoid scrutiny for not meeting climate targets, but also so that other companies can’t emulate their success. However, companies who are taking action without publicising their progress are still damaging. Publishing green actions holds the power to inspire others, shift mindsets, and encourage collaborative approaches; thus accelerating the global journey towards net-zero emissions.
Ultimately, green hushing will soon no longer be an option for businesses. The Corporate Sustainability Reporting Directive (CSRD), which comes into play in 2024, means that climate disclosures will become mandatory for a vast number of companies. Meanwhile, The Securities and Exchange Commission’s (SEC’s) Climate-Related Disclosures Proposal presents new rules that would require SEC registrants to include climate-related disclosures in their registration statements and periodic reports from 2024 onwards; thus meaning that businesses have less of a choice to engage in green hushing.
What is green botching?
First came greenwashing, where companies pretend to be greener than they are. Next, there was green hushing, where companies actively avoided disclosing their progress on climate.
Now, a new green term has gained traction in the world of sustainability which describes when companies implement sustainable measures so poorly that they backfire.
Green botching occurs when well-meant sustainability actions are implemented so poorly that they cause a company more harm than good. Green botching often sees businesses implementing a sustainability strategy with good intentions, yet due to a lack of resources or knowledge, the company’s efforts ultimately fall short of reaping the long-term strategic benefits of sustainability. For example, grocery stores that ban plastic bags, yet do not offer suitable alternatives will ultimately cause immense inconvenience; thus forfeiting the benefits of sustainability.
When designing and implementing sustainability strategies, businesses must ensure they take the appropriate measures to avoid having them backfire. Some of the key steps businesses can take to avoid green botching include:
- Collaborating with internal and external stakeholders, such as suppliers, customers, employees and investors is fundamental to avoiding green botching. Taking measures to ensure clear and transparent dialogue with stakeholders regarding the business’ sustainability strategy will promote mutual understanding and trust whilst mitigating both the financial and non-financial risks of sustainability. Follow this guide to learn how to effectively manage your stakeholders in the net-zero transition.
- Ensuring internal alignment is key to building an effective sustainability strategy and avoiding green botching. This can be achieved by taking actions to ensure that employees are involved and educated on the company’s net-zero journey, the importance of the net-zero transition, and upskilling employees to ensure the sustainable goals of the company are met. Meanwhile, senior-level leaders should take ownership of the sustainability agenda to ensure organisation-wide, and cross-departmental alignment.
- Leveraging the power of technology to ensure sustainability is implemented in a strategic manner. Businesses who utilise technology to enact decarbonisation and ensure they are undertaking sustainability in an efficient and effective manner will be able to mitigate risk and sustain a competitive advantage. Sustainability software, such as Plan A’s data-driven sustainability platform can streamline key processes such as science based target setting, carbon footprint calculation and validation, thus ensuring businesses can leverage the vast opportunities relating to the net-zero transition whilst avoiding green botching.
What is greenwishing?
Closely related to greenwashing, a new phrase known as ‘greenwishing’ has gained traction in the sustainability space.
Greenwishing is a term used to describe situations where a company or individual acts with the right moral motive, but receives no significant benefit. Businesses who ‘greenwish’ often have sustainable-intentions, yet lack a solid sustainability strategy with unattainable targets.
Greenwishing can be seen at a regulatory level through unattainable green targets and climate plans which do not address the underlying cause of the issue. For example, climate policies which prioritise carbon offsetting without tackling the underlying issues causing major carbon outputs will never meet the primary goal of decarbonisation, essentially green wishing. Meanwhile, greenwishing is also common at an organisational level. Read more about the importance of ESG regulations in facilitating climate progress here.
On an organisational level, greenwishing occurs when organisations lack the knowledge or resources to develop and implement an effective sustainability strategy. Businesses who green wish may wish to track their climate progress, yet lack an understanding of reduction strategies to achieve decarbonisation. In order to avoid green wishing, businesses must take a data-driven approach across every stage of the sustainability journey; data collection, data measurement, ESG reporting, target setting, carbon reduction, and improvement. Plan A’s comprehensive sustainability platform uses a data-driven approach to ensure companies can implement an action-oriented and scalable sustainability strategy with provable progress.
Greenwashing, green hushing, green botching, and greenwishing are four of the key negative sustainability trends that sustainability leaders must familiarise themselves with and take action against to mitigate the vast financial and non-financial risks of sustainability. For a a comprehensive overview of the terms and abbreviations related to sustainability, carbon, and ESG management, visit the Plan A glossary.
Businesses who wish to remain competitive must ultimately ensure alignment with forthcoming sustainability regulations whilst meeting the growing sustainable demands of internal stakeholders.
Book a demo with Plan A to develop and implement an action-oriented and data-driven sustainability strategy today.