Companies have a duty to be transparent about sustainability credentials and should celebrate their major achievements, says Steve Pearce, of Kyocera Document Solutions UK.
Recent research shows that almost 25% of medium and large businesses in the UK have been guilty of ‘greenhushing’ in the past year, referring to deliberately playing down their sustainability credentials for fear of public backlash.
Instead of dumbing down these efforts, organisations must be fully transparent about their activities, as this provides opportunities to inspire further change in their industries.
The reasons for greenhushing vary, with some businesses fearing that openly celebrating their sustainability initiatives will lead to accusations of greenwashing or hypocrisy. For others, it might be due to an eagerness to appear sustainable in a way that invites less scrutiny.
Others may simply not want to draw attention to their sustainability efforts due to the potential for criticism and/or backlash. For some, greenhushing is a way to protect their brand from being tarnished in the public eye.
Steve says, “Regardless of the motivation for it, greenhushing threatens to be a major barrier to the advancement of sustainable business.
“A fear of backlash or criticism is understandable, but to move their industries forward, organisations must be willing to put their heads above the parapet. After all, if you’ve made genuine efforts to become more sustainable and have concrete evidence to demonstrate your initiatives and their results, you have every reason to celebrate your achievements, while remaining open about where you need to improve further.
“By prioritising transparency, a company can become a role model for others to follow and inspire further sustainability initiatives across their industry.”
Pearce suggests three key areas of focus to prevent greenhushing.
1. Be honest across the board
“Maintaining regular and consistent communication with all stakeholders is crucial, including customers, partners and your own staff. This means being willing to share your sustainability triumphs, but also letting everyone know about the obstacles you’re facing and what you’re doing to overcome them. This is key to establishing trust and bolstering relationships with everyone involved with the company. Failing to do so may give the impression that you’re hiding something or are well behind in your environmental efforts.”
2. Be transparent through concrete evidence
“Sharing information about your business’ sustainability policies, achievements and targets is crucial in building trust with your customers and stakeholders. To demonstrate your commitment, publishing an annual sustainability report that outlines your progress in this area is essential. Be clear, concise and upfront about everything in this report, and you’ll be better placed to celebrate your achievements in the long run.”
3. Practise what you preach internally as well as externally
“One reason for greenhushing is when companies can’t confidently back up the bold statements they make externally to what they’re actually doing behind the scenes. Sustainability initiatives should permeate the entire organisation and all employees need to feel involved and included in the process. Any customer-focused green schemes should be backed up by employee-focused initiatives too, such as cycle-to-work schemes and the provision of environmentally friendly office spaces.
“This enables you to speak publicly about your achievements without fearing criticism or claims of insincerity. Practising what you preach will go a long way in demonstrating your commitment to sustainability.”