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Silence isn’t golden

5 November, 2021

With COP26 underway, sustainability is topping the news agenda, and businesses are highlighting their sustainability strategies and initiatives. But not all brands are joining the conversation. Why not? 

Greenhushing, the practice of deliberately underreporting green initiatives, could be to blame. This might seem strange – who wouldn’t want to celebrate sustainability achievements?! However, backlash from greenwashing – where businesses overclaim or misrepresent their sustainability credentials – has become increasingly common. For example, a 2021 report from the Changing Markets Foundation revealed that a staggering 91% of sustainability claims made by H&M, ASOS and M&S were unsubstantiated or misleading. With consumers unsure who to trust, many brands are completely avoiding discussing sustainability, either because they are worried they aren’t doing enough, or because they are concerned about accusations of greenwashing.  

We don’t think this is the right approach. For one thing, companies who are transparent about their sustainability initiatives can act as role models, encourage conversations around best practice, and even attract interest from sustainability-minded investors. Of course these efforts have to be credible and real – changes that have been made with have a positive impact for society, including honest and transparent accounts of where there have been struggles. But speaking up is a way to build valuable trust with your stakeholders; if you stay silent, they will assume you aren’t doing anything. Finally, the UN Sustainable Development Goals emphasise that businesses are central to affect meaningful change; in other words, businesses have a responsibility to talk about their sustainability efforts.  

Our advice? Be transparent about your sustainability credentials and activities. This means first and foremost taking action. But it also means communicating clearly and creatively, and being honest about where you are in your sustainability journey. 

By Miriam Shovel

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