Greenwashing or greenhushing?

Striking the right balance between 
greenhushing and greenwashing.

It’s no secret that there’s been a lot of talk lately about how damaging greenwashing can be for a brand. In fact, some brands are so worried about being called out for misleading customers that they’ve stopped communicating their impact altogether. This, along with the time-consuming process of impact reporting, has resulted in some brands falling into the trap of greenhushing. 

That being said, it’s essential for brands to strike a balance between greenwashing and greenhushing, especially since consumers are becoming more and more environmentally conscious. People are looking for brands they can trust to provide sustainable products. Brands that mislead or hide information about their environmental impact risk losing the trust of their stakeholders and damaging their reputation. Let’s take a look at a few examples to see why finding the right balance is so crucial:

1. Iceland's Palm Oil Pledge

In 2018, UK supermarket chain Iceland created an ad campaign featuring an orangutan to draw attention to the devastating effects of palm oil on rainforests and wildlife. While the ad was banned for being “too political,” it generated support for Iceland’s promise to remove palm oil from its own-brand products. However, since June 2022, Iceland has had to use certified sustainable palm oil in some of its products due to supply issues with sunflower oil caused by the Russia/Ukraine war. Though Iceland intends to return to using sunflower oil as soon as possible, this, along with the fact that Iceland still sells products containing palm oil under other brand names, has led to accusations of greenwashing.

2. Tesco's carbon reduction targets

Tesco, the UK supermarket giant, has set a goal to become a zero-carbon business by 2050 and has implemented initiatives to reduce its environmental impact, such as using renewable energy and elec-tric delivery vehicles. The company has even partnered with the WWF. However, some campaigners have criticized Tesco for not doing enough to reduce its plastic waste, accusing the company of greenhushing on this issue.

3. Brewdog's sustainability efforts

Scottish craft beer company BrewDog has made sustainability a core part of its business by using renewable energy, recycling water, and reducing waste. They’ve even launched a carbon-negative beer and a vegan burger made from spent grain. Despite these efforts and many well documented others, BrewDog has been accused of greenwashing by campaigners who argue that the company’s growth and expansion plans are not compatible with its sustainability goals.

4. Primark's handling of its climate footprint

Primark committed in 2017 to halving its carbon emissions by 2020 and becoming “climate positive” by 2050. However, the company has not provided detailed information about its emissions reduction targets and progress. This lack of transparency has led to criticism from campaigners who argue that Primark is not doing enough to address its environmental impact. Moreover, Primark has been accused of greenhushing by focusing on long-term targets instead of concrete actions to reduce its carbon footprint in the short term.  

Why it's so important to strike the right balance

These examples illustrate why it’s important for brands to be transparent, honest, and consistent in their sustainability claims and actions. Brands need to tell the truth and be upfront about their practices to avoid discrepancies between their values and actions. Failure to do so can result in negative consequences like loss of sales, customer loyalty, and stakeholder engagement. 

 In conclusion, it is crucial for brands to strike a balance between greenwashing and greenhushing to build and maintain trust with all their stakeholders. At Harrison Brands, we understand the importance of truth, transparency and accountability in sustainability reporting, and we can help your brand communicate its environmental impact in an authentic and meaningful way.