What is the Green Hush? What Can You Do About it?

Aub from Dandelion Branding sitting crossed arms under What is the Green Hush? Don't fall prey to keeping climate-quiet

Check out our Impact Page. You’ll see that we say that the Dandelion Duo are vigilante sustainability advocates fighting the green hush.

We think it’s a fierce statement that succinctly shares our great big mission to elevate organizations that are standing on the front lines, creating resilient change, screaming in the face of the climate crisis.

But I realized at one of our Sustainability Social Hours that “green hush” isn’t a common term yet – even though it’s a very common occurrence.

What is the Green Hush?

The Green Hush is where businesses and organizations decide not to talk about their climate actions, plans, or goals. (Now you see why we’re fighting it!)

Despite more and more businesses setting science-backed and net zero goals, South Pole’s 2022 Net Zero report says that almost a quarter of businesses decided not to share their goals.

What?! While I love the idea of doing good for the sake of doing good, not sharing climate goals with your audience has consequences.

Consequences of Keeping Climate-Quiet

There are two main consequences of not sharing climate action or goals.

1 – The Organization Misses Out on Sustainability-Focused Audiences

An audience that is dedicated to an equitable and sustainable future is LOOKING FOR CLIMATE ACTION. By not communicating goals, plans, and actions, you’re passing potential customers off to the people who are.

2 – The Greenwashers Set the Trend

This is the real insidious issue. When the real do-gooders don’t share what they are doing and how they’re doing it, greenwashers define the rules.

Climate change isn’t a game or a marketing tactic. But people that lie about net zero targets or communicate goals without taking action treat it like it is. They entice buyers, remove ‘green guilt’ and the planet still suffers.

Even if you’re sold on the altruism of not communicating the good you do, what about the harm you’re inadvertently doing by not setting a real standard for resilient change?

Green Hushing Vs. Greenwashing

So what exactly is the difference between green hushing and greenwashing? They’re on the opposite sides of the communication spectrum.

Greenwashing is lying. And a lie will always unravel with pressure. If a company is saying they’re taking action and they’re not, it isn’t hard to find out. There is a whole slew of watch-dogs and climate communication policies rounding the block on this one too.

I find the green hush to be more insidious because it’s a lack of communication. There is literally no way for a consumer to know if a company is even trying to take action unless they say so. There is no repercussion for not communicating about climate action! In fact – that’s why the green hush exists.

Where The Green Hush Came From

There are very real, very scary reasons why businesses opt out of sharing.

1 – Fear of Being Called Out

It is ironic, but cancel culture put the fear of a greenwashing scandal into the hearts of sustainable business owners everywhere. Leaders are simply afraid of being confronted for greenwashing – even when they aren’t.

There is a well-traveled myth that a business has to be perfectly sustainable to talk about their climate goals, plans, and actions. That simply isn’t true. Sharing your sustainability journey accurately outweighs grandiose claims every time.

2 – Thinking People Don’t Care About the Data

I’ve spoken with so many business leaders that say, “we have the data but people don’t care.”

You know what I say to that? “They may, they may not. It doesn’t matter.”

Sharing the science behind the goals and actions of a business builds credibility. That’s reliable credibility that a greenwashing scandal can’t touch. (See #1).

3 – Thinking Investors Won’t Take Their Business Seriously

While the first two consequences are solvable, this one is rough. Though the sustainable investment landscape is changing, sustainability and ESG can’t compete with old-school, fast-paced capitalism. Sustainability projects are often long-term, come with a high up-front cost, and are still exploratory – that leads to big risk for investors. (Yikes) So, companies seeking investment often downplay their climate action in favor of promoting ROI.

Here’s another irony though. The Latest IPCC Report says that one of the largest issues we face in the climate crisis is that the solutions are vastly underfunded. Companies that are saving the world – literally yes, I said it – need to be accurately communicating their impact with every investor they can get in front of right now.

What to Do About the Green Hush

I feel like I’m shouting at a rom-com movie here, but the best thing to do? Communicate.

Talk about your goals and imperfect actions. Share the assumptions you held and how they set you back.

Are you underfunded? Talk about it in your emails and get a fundraising campaign going.

Is it scary? Yes. But it’s also the only way to fight the green hush. It gets easier with time and action – a lot easier.

And if you feel a little bit stuck on your communication, please download our guide to making a sustainability statement.

Want to elevate the sustainability efforts of your organization?

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