Greenhushing Prevailing Across Sectors, Says Study

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by KnowESG
KnowESG_Greenhushing Prevailing Across Sectors, Says Study
Image courtesy of South Pole

The South Pole released its annual Net Zero Report, revealing that a lot of companies across various sectors are deliberately scaling back their communication efforts regarding climate initiatives, a phenomenon called 'greenhushing' since its identification in 2022.

This year's report, based on surveys conducted with over 1,400 companies globally, each led by sustainability-focused teams, scrutinises the trend of companies opting to keep their climate strategies and goals under wraps, reducing or altogether halting external communications on these matters.

For the first time, the report confirms that 'greenhushing' is prevalent across nearly every major sector worldwide, spanning industries from fashion and technology to fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). Drawing on data gathered by UK research firm Sapio, this independent research by South Pole highlights a disconnect between companies acknowledging the importance of communicating their climate objectives and their actual confidence in doing so.

Among surveyed companies, a staggering 81% recognise the benefits of communicating net zero initiatives for their bottom line. However, over half (58%) of those encountering difficulties in conveying their climate actions intend to decrease their external communications efforts deliberately.

This tension is compounded by the findings suggesting that companies perceive net zero goals as integral to commercial success, with 46% citing meeting customer demands and 39% aiming to enhance risk management across supply chains as primary motivations.

The impending wave of compliance measures on emissions reduction and sustainability is cited as a key driver behind the 'greenhushing' trend. Today's data indicates that many companies struggle to adapt to new regulations and compliance frameworks, resulting in diminished confidence in communicating climate strategies and goals.

Fear of investor scrutiny emerges as another top reason for 'greenhushing', expressed by a majority of environmental services companies and oil and gas entities (51% and 57% respectively). This raises questions about whether short-term financial objectives and investor pressures might hinder long-term climate action. Other sectors, such as retail, fashion, technology, consumer goods, and transport, cite reasons like "regulatory requirements" and "lack of guidance on best practice" as primary motivations for scaling back communication efforts.

Despite the evolving and increasingly regulated landscape of corporate climate claims, a majority of surveyed companies still deem climate-neutral claims as 'fit for purpose'. However, the report underscores a pressing need for greater transparency and accountability in communicating climate impact and progress on net zero goals.

John Davis, Interim CEO of South Pole, highlights the contradiction between corporate climate action and the reluctance to communicate openly about it. He suggests that the current phase of minimal communication may precede a regulatory shift, urging business leaders to embrace transparency and share both progress and challenges in climate action.

Franziska Sinner, Senior Director of Climate Strategies at South Pole, warns against overly optimistic net zero target dates, stressing the importance of concerted action on scope 3 value chain emissions and conscious preparation for such commitments.

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Source: South Pole

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