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Green hushing is when a brand or company deliberately underreports their sustainable practices. This term was created by the consulting firm Tree Hugger, who realised many of the businesses they were meeting with were hesitant to share their sustainability initiatives.
Effectively, it is the opposite of greenwashing. Instead of businesses deceiving their customers in order to appear more eco-friendly to profit from increasing interest in conscious clothing. Instead, these companies are actively trying to hide their sustainable practices.
Green hushing comes from a fear of being accused of not doing enough by customers, their initiatives are seen as not enough, and generally any form of backlash from their consumers.
‘Green hushing’ has become a survival strategy for companies and organisations that want to avoid public scrutiny. It tends to be used by smaller businesses, that do not have the means to operate large-scale sustainability efforts. Therefore, their practices are small-scale, which may be criticised by consumers as “not enough”.
It is hard to truly identify when green hushing is taking place. The act itself surrounds the silence of brands, so it’s difficult to know which brands are and are not being honest about their sustainability. Then throw green washing into the mix. Trying to identify transparent and eco-conscious companies becomes harder and harder for consumers.
THE ISSUE WITH ECO-SILENCE
The problem with green hushing is the loss of education and influence. When prominent brands make sustainable changes, other brands are encouraged to follow. Furthermore, a new and better standard is created for sustainability. Customers are also educated on sustainability and gain a better understanding of what a real environmentally conscious brand looks like. This can then shape who and where they invest their time and money in, in the future.
The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) acknowledge this need for companies to be transparent with their sustainable initiatives. These companies, according to the UN play an integral role in influencing their market to change. Huge corporations set a standard for other companies in the same field. Gucci, Versace, and Michael Kors all recently went fur-free, which they wouldn’t have considered if Calvin Klein had not gone fur-free in the 2000s. Transparency not only paves way for inspiration but also new ideas on how to be sustainable.
When looking into the brands you support, it’s clear transparency is vital. Whether a brand is misleading you with false greenwashing techniques or hiding their true initiatives, it is clear neither is helpful when working towards sustainability on a global level.
So, look for brands that identify their suppliers, their fabrics, and the chemicals they use. It can be easy to be distracted by green buzz words like “ethical” and “natural”. But real sustainable brands won’t need to wow you with adjectives without any information. They will present the facts clearly and honestly, without the need to hide behind flashy phrases.