‘Greenhushing’ Joins Greenwashing (woke firms in legal peril?)

From MasterResource

By Robert Bradley Jr. — November 28, 2022

“Fear among corporate firms of being called out on misleading and or exaggerated environmental and sustainability claims is growing as regulators clamp down and hold companies to account over greenwashing.”

“… some firms are choosing not to talk about their green targets, climate researchers say…. Fear of litigation may be also deterring some companies from talking about their climate targets altogether.”

– Anastasia Molone, “Is Green-hushing the New Greenwashing?” (below)

Face it: There are just not that many who buy into climate alarmism, even those at firms pressured by activist bullies. Sure, it is politically correct grist during the workday. But off the clock, in one’s heart-of-hearts, climate fear is a political issue, not an “existential threat to humanity,” as Joe Biden’s teleprompter says.

Woke businesses, the virtue signalers, have created a problem for themselves. By just going along, and pretending to buy into the alarmist narrative, they have not appeased their enemies but made promises and raised expectations. They greenwashed. And now that energy reality has hit (energy density rules, as in fossil fuel reliance), the firms are quietly backtracking or trying to find a middle way (Shell’s ‘rational middle’ campaign).

Lawsuits against “greenwashing” are greeting companies that promised the most, such as Shell by ClientEarth. And uncovered emails at some of the oil majors indicate as much. It a ruse that could have been avoided by firms being truthful and intellectually courageous by taking the moral high ground on the connection between fossil fuels and human betterment.

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This is now a recognized problem, with the Statists facing a new problem to join greenwashing: greenhushing. Anastasia Moloney, in “Is Green-hushing the New Greenwashing?” (Context: October 26, 2022), writes:

As COP27 draws near, some firms are choosing not to talk about their green targets, climate researchers say. What are the risks?

  • Some firms are staying quiet on climate commitments
  • Trend reflects lawsuits, consumer anger over greenwashing
  • Lack of information could hamper public scrutiny

Companies that tout or exaggerate their environmentally friendly credentials are often accused of “greenwashing”, but now a more subtle phenomenon – “green-hushing” – is emerging, climate researchers say.

As policymakers and activists turn their attention to November’s COP27 U.N. climate conference in Egypt, they say some firms are deliberately downplaying and underreporting, or even keeping silent, about their emissions and carbon-offsetting targets.

Here’s a look at companies’ motives for staying hushed and the possible implications:

Moloney then defines green-hushing:

Coined by academics in 2008, the term refers to businesses and organizations that opt to stay quiet about their climate strategies because they fear being called out for greenwashing, or named and shamed if they fall short.

“(It) has its roots in greenwashing in that it is the fear of being accused of greenwashing by activists that drives companies to remain silent, despite actually being engaged in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR),” according to research published by The Journal of Travel Research in 2020 that looked at green-hushing in the tourism sector.

Fear of bad publicity and a backlash from consumers saying a company and its brand is not as green as it says it is, means some companies are reluctant to disclose their climate commitments to avoid any such negative attention.

“Increased scrutiny by the media, NGOs, the public, and consumer and market authorities may have made companies more wary than ever about communicating their targets,” Renat Heuberger, chief executive and co-founder of South Pole, a Swiss-based climate consultancy and carbon offsets developer, told Context.

She asks: is green-hushing on the rise?

According to a report published this month by South Pole, some companies, including from the tech, finance, and engineering sectors, prefer not to disclose and draw attention to their achievements or milestones on climate action.

It found that nearly one in four of the 1,200 large, private companies from 12 countries that it surveyed have set net-zero targets but have decided not to publicize their progress.

“Companies are hesitant to over-promise publicly on what they can deliver,” the report said.

Such green-hushing is happening even as a majority of companies spend more money on meeting their climate commitments, the report said. Nearly three-quarters of the businesses surveyed are investing more – not less – to achieve their targets, it found.

“This is a concerning trend, as less public-facing communication makes targets harder to scrutinize and limits knowledge-sharing,” the report said.

The stigma of being labelled a greenwasher by climate activists or consumers who are demanding greener products and businesses is their principal motive, but they may also fear failure, said Heuberger.

“For example, one in three (29%) of all the companies we surveyed said that delivering their net-zero target has been ‘more difficult than expected’ over the past year,” he said.

Fear of litigation may be also deterring some companies from talking about their climate targets altogether.

One in five of the world’s 2,000 largest publicly listed companies have now committed to a “net-zero” emissions target within the next 20 to 30 years to help tackle climate change, according to UK-based Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit (ECIU) and Oxford Net Zero.

But a growing number of lawsuits are being filed by environmental groups alleging statements made by companies about being “clean,” “green” or “sustainable” are deceptive.

“The rise of climate litigation is becoming more of a concern,” said Heuberger, adding that the survey showed respondents from France were among the most likely to not publicize their science-based targets.

France is one of the few countries that has explicit regulation in place on corporate climate claims, he added.

In contrast, Singapore-based companies were the most open to publicizing their reduction targets.

Moloney: ‘Will crackdowns on greenwashing bring more green-hushing?’

Fear among corporate firms of being called out on misleading and or exaggerated environmental and sustainability claims is growing as regulators clamp down and hold companies to account over greenwashing.

Last week, the Advertising Standards Authority ASA, Britain’s advertising watchdog, said HSBC posters used by the bank ahead of last year’s COP26 climate summit were “misleading” following complaints from environmental groups.

ASA told the bank to ensure that future advertisements do not “omit material information about its contribution to carbon dioxide and greenhouse-gas emissions”, ASA said in a ruling.

This week, Britain’s financial watchdog also proposed new rules from 2024 for investment funds and their managers to prevent consumers being misled by greenwashing.

And earlier this month, Canada’s Competition Bureau, a federal law enforcement body, said it had launched an investigation into Royal Bank of Canada over allegations that the country’s largest lender had misled customers on its commitments regarding climate action.

In another case, German and U.S. officials are investigating reports and a whistleblower’s allegations that DWS, a top German asset manager, exaggerated the green credentials of its funds and investments, prompting a lawsuit by a German consumer group.

DWS has repeatedly denied that it misled investors.

—————————–

Greenwashing has company. Greenhushing and, think magical thinking, Greenwishing. The best way to make all three go away is to dial back the anti-CO2 crusade. Consumers matter. Taxpayers matter. Freedom from Big Brother government matters.

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michael hart
November 29, 2022 2:21 am

In the UK one of the largest supermarkets, Sainsbury’s, now qualifies it’s carbon-reduction slogans with “in our own operations”.

They clearly know that the foolish things they signed up for are unachievable and are quietly offloading the responsibility for failure to their suppliers.

Ben Vorlich
Reply to  michael hart
November 29, 2022 4:17 am

About 10-15 years ago I worked for a logistics company contracted to M&S. They were heavily into saving the planet even then, Plan A, There’s no Plan B I think was the slogan, on all their trucks (except food). I still wonder how they’re going to achieve net zero business across all our operations and our entire value chain by 2040 – ten years earlier than the Government’s UK-wide strategy
Most of their clothing is made in the far east, they have large stores in most major city centres, and warehouses – there’s a very large one near Derby.
For a large operation like M&S and Sainburys saving energy always made sense, even very small savings like streamlining artic trailers to save a fraction of a percent of diesel and limiting top speed for lorries to save another fraction, turning down store temperatures to save another fraction all add to the bottom. Mony amickle maks a muckle and all that, but are there enough mickles to mak the whole lot?
But Net Zero by 2040 without cheating seems pretty tricky to me.

Ian_e
Reply to  Ben Vorlich
November 29, 2022 5:20 am

Yep: there is only one way – WW3.

Joy
Reply to  michael hart
December 1, 2022 4:34 am

They will all start to follow suit. All of them, leading from behind
Clueless…Boots and M and S doing similar displays of what they think are popular with customers. When I speak to the staff, they always agree that it’s all a load of tosh…Someone should tell them!

AGW is Not Science
November 29, 2022 3:42 am

I’m looking forward to “Greensquashing,” when the colossal stupidity and futility of “green goals” is so apparent that even the deluded have started to see it, and companies proudly announce their abandonment of the mass stupidity.

AndyHce
Reply to  AGW is Not Science
November 29, 2022 10:03 am

More likely, in the current “climate” is back room deals with strong non-disclosure agreements resulting in public pressure being directed away from those companies paying for adequate protection.

Gary Pearse
Reply to  AGW is Not Science
November 30, 2022 5:34 pm

Actually, I thought the legal flack was coming from the other direction. Texas and several other jurisdictions have warned financial institutions like BlackRock (the world’s largest such company) that refusal to loan to oil and gas industry would lead to decertification of the financial companies. There have also been stern warnings with respect to managing retirement funds, that pursuing goals other than achieving the highest returns commensurate with acceptable risk is against the law.

Everybody knows that greens are pushing their agenda on industries, but the real news is legal threats from shareholders for compromising fiduciary duty to them, is the litigious elephant in the courtroom to fear.

Bob B.
November 29, 2022 4:13 am

“… some firms are choosing not to talk about their green targets, climate researchers say….” 

How is studying greenhushing or greenwashing climate research? Should be Climate Hoax researchers.

George Daddis
Reply to  Bob B.
November 29, 2022 6:36 am

Climate Researchers = Climate Activists.
A certain Mann come to mind.

And Greta’s great grandfather was Svante Arrhenius, does that count?

Joseph Zorzin
November 29, 2022 4:30 am

greenlemings

jollygg2 smaller.jpg
Tom Johnson
November 29, 2022 5:22 am

A ‘Net Zero’ society is simply impossible in the next several decades. Even if it meant the end of civilization (it doesn’t), the technology and natural resources required to make it happen are simply not there and won’t be found in that amount of time. Even with a ‘full court press’ on nuclear power, the total resources to make Net Zero happen simply take more time and $trillions than possible. There is no amount of rhetoric that will change reality.

So, what will happen to government and company leaders that say it will (whether they personally believe it or not)? Future history books will call them fools. ‘Net Zero’ is already spiraling away. This story surely demonstrates that. Companies once proudly proclaiming the policies are now hiding them. COP27 ended weaker yet – the delusional leaders copped out, blaming COVID. It will surely die, “not with a bang but a whimper”. It will simply become less and less prominent as more and more of the dire predictions melt away.

Last edited 2 months ago by Tom Johnson
Bill Powers
November 29, 2022 5:38 am

Without the media this would not be happening. It is time for a coalition of world Citizens to sue the Media Outlets around the world, put CNN at the top of that list, for false and misleading information and demand a cease and desist or face financial ruin. We could call this global coalition “Looking in Greta’s Mirror”

Peta of Newark
Reply to  Bill Powers
November 29, 2022 6:21 am

Don’t need no mirror – Greta is everywhere:

BBC Headline:”Quarter of 17-19-year-olds have probable mental disorder – study
here

Is everyone pleased with themselves, after decades of filling kids with:

  • rubbish food
  • (the tacit approval of) drugs and alcohol
  • junk science & education
  • lies and propaganda (as is this story here today, how many more in the whatwhat archive?)
  • guilt, worry & stress
  • the dysfunctional horror that is ‘social media’
  • hysterical garbage that is: Main Stream Media
  • being dumped and left alone, financially and socially (via overwork & stress from same) by their own parents
  • systematically robbed of their future via ‘managed inflation’, Government deficit borrowing and money-printing
  • sad and pathetic word games – as exactly this story is all about.

iow: Fiddling while Rome burns (nothing to do with CO2 – it is a pawn and a symptom, not the cause)

nailheadtom
Reply to  Bill Powers
November 29, 2022 7:02 am

. “Consumers matter. Taxpayers matter. Freedom from Big Brother government matters.”

No mention of the legal world, the secular Levites that enact, interpret and enforce increasingly convoluted and complex regulations. Every moment of every day for every one of us is a potential payday for a person or business devoted to extracting a pound of flesh from the world at large. Eventually this situation will be resolved by either common sense or terrifying violence. It will be interesting to see which one.

Dr. Bob
November 29, 2022 6:53 am

Airlines are probably the most guilty organizations that are greenwashing by promoting that they will switch to renewable fuels completely eliminating their GHG emissions. They sign contracts for millions of gallons per year of fuel that currently is not and most likely cannot be produced. Some companies have been promoting production of renewable jet fuel (SAF or Sustainable Aviation Fuel) for 11 years but have produced little or none of that fuel but spent billions of investors dollars on the effort.
ICAO, the International Civilian Aviation Organization, has evaluated most of the SAF fuel production pathways and the ones that are most viable, converting corn starch into ethanol and then converting ethanol into SAS, a process called Alcohol-To-Jet Fuel or ATJ has been assessed to have GHG emissions higher than conventional jet fuel, but they still call it renewable. To me, this is RINO fuel, Renewable In Name Only.

This is a topic worthy of much discussion, but that is for another time. The ICAO report on this issue can be found at: CORSIA Default Life Cycle Emissions Values for CORSIA Eligible Fuels – Second Edition (icao.int)

Much like the Raw Materials for Lithium-Ion Batteries and wind/solar instillation, these have to be acquired with fossil fuels and much environmental damage. For food to fuel crops, the Indirect Land Use Change costs can double the emissions of a fuel production process.

AndyHce
Reply to  Dr. Bob
November 29, 2022 10:11 am

This is probably true for all the biofuel stuff. Their costs in just about everything, especially energy in being much greater than energy out, are much greater and more destructive than what they attempt to replace.

pflashgordon
Reply to  AndyHce
November 29, 2022 11:16 am

If crops planted, cultivated and harvested themselves (no human intervention), then burned in place for energy recovery, every arable acre (hectare) would have to be used. Even then, it would not provide more than a small fraction of transportation fuel demand. Of course, we would then have no food, feed or fiber, and the land and biota would be devastated.

Tom Halla
November 29, 2022 7:38 am

Perhaps, they will realize appeasing zealots is a foolish game. Demand the Impossible is a mark of a zealot, and suggesting anything other than mental health counseling if a fruitless response in the long run.

Coeur de Lion
November 29, 2022 8:06 am

I’d have thought that any activity which detracted from profit-making would be actionable by shareholders.

Retired_Engineer_Jim
Reply to  Coeur de Lion
November 29, 2022 10:20 pm

Yes, but what if the dominant shareholders have drunk the Kool-Aid, or are profiting mightily from the renewables industry? They are unlikely to vote against their own well-being.

gyan1
November 29, 2022 8:12 am

“There are just not that many who buy into climate alarmism”

Not true in Liberal regions. The climate crisis lie is alive and well in the minds of the deluded. No amount of empirical evidence can sway them from their psychotic paranoia. They can’t even comprehend that media false narratives couldn’t be true. They live in a bubble their media preserves through censorship.

WUWT is a rare bastion of sanity in a wilderness of disinformation propaganda. It is also an echo chamber if people don’t examine what liberal media presents that people blindly believe.

We are in a war for the preservation of the scientific method and freedom of speech. Hopefully the tide is turning but we are in full flood stage for a totalitarian globalist takeover.

AndyHce
Reply to  gyan1
November 29, 2022 10:14 am

but, but, but the scientific method and freedom of speech are so Anti-Democratic, Democracy being, as it has always been, mob rule.

pflashgordon
Reply to  gyan1
November 29, 2022 11:24 am

So in California, Washington, New York, Illinois, and Pennsylvania plus others, the densely populated cities rule, but most of today’s city dwellers have no clue about the source of their food, energy and consumer products. Mass delusion is quite easy to accomplish in the teeming city, built environment isolated from nature and the production needed to support those cities. Get out while you can while those crash test dummies knowingly descend into a maelstrom of poverty and violence.

gyan1
Reply to  pflashgordon
November 29, 2022 5:41 pm

I live in the boonies surrounded by nature with an expansive view. Too close to woke city for my liking though. The culture there has been totally brainwashed. No empirical facts accepted.

Steve Case
November 29, 2022 8:48 am

I told my IRA manager that if there’s class action suit regarding ESG and fiduciary responsibilities of brokerage houses, that I would join. He told me I don’t have any ESG investments.

BobM
Reply to  Steve Case
November 29, 2022 1:17 pm

Same here. I told mine to get out of anything from Blackrock or Vanguard.

186no
Reply to  BobM
November 30, 2022 4:55 am

Sir, if you have any exposure to exchange Traded Funds mimicking a particular index with other fund managers than Blackrock/Vanguard, you might still have exposure – I’m in the UK, with long experience of investment fund managers and the devil is 100% in the detail. Whatever your IRA manager says, I recommend you safely save every scrap of to and fro dialogue – email, mobile, message, social media – to a secure “home”. ESG is a con for sure, not enough space to tell you how I know, and Lawyers the world over will be enriched in the class action suits that surely must follow?

186no
Reply to  Steve Case
November 30, 2022 4:49 am

Get that in writing…

CO2isLife
November 29, 2022 9:25 am

This is so easy to address, simply call their bluff. Offer to bet $1,000,000 that atmospheric CO2 will be HIGHER after the US Spends $369 billion on fighting climate change included in the Inflation Reduction Act. I’ll chip in $10,000 if WUWT wants to host that challenge. You could even offer 5×1 odds. There is 0.00% Chance of the trend in CO2 being altered by more government spending.

COPE.png
AndyHce
Reply to  CO2isLife
November 29, 2022 10:15 am

When they won’t even talk about it, who will acknowledge that a bet has been offered?

pflashgordon
Reply to  CO2isLife
November 29, 2022 11:28 am

GHG emissions are closely tied to population growth. Open borders and millions of 1st and 2nd generation illegals will inevitably lead to increasing emissions of all kinds, including GHGs. If the left truly believed there is a “climate emergency,” they would be major advocates for border control and deportation of illegals. Cognitive dissonance.

CO2isLife
Reply to  pflashgordon
November 29, 2022 11:52 am

CO2 is tightly tied to ocean temperatures. That is why COVID did nothing to atmospheric CO2.

AndyHce
November 29, 2022 9:59 am

Does this kind of stuff remind anyone else of public piety vs private individual beliefs and actions in societies where a religious organization holds considerable political influence or naked political power?

pflashgordon
November 29, 2022 10:22 am

I’ve watched several sickening commercials from Amazon, crowing about their “green” cred. Peddlers of cheap Chinese products. I studiously avoid buying through Amazon.

Now Dominos Pizza is trying to boost their ESG score and public “green” image by using a few EVs to deliver pizza. I don’t care what kind of car they drive and don’t want to know — just get the pizza to its destination, safe and hot.

mikelowe2013
November 29, 2022 10:32 am

What a shame that accusations of Greenwashing do not seem to apply to governments. If they did, almost all “Western” governments would be found guilty, partly because they have been so proudly and publicly announcing their “greenness”. With a General Election due here in New Zealand in about 12 months, that should be enough time for these damaging impossibilities to become more widely known, and trumpeted!

AndyHce
Reply to  mikelowe2013
November 30, 2022 3:26 pm

Have you not noticed that suits have been successfully brought against the governments of several countries for not enough “real” action? The courts have ordered that more must be done.

BobM
November 29, 2022 1:30 pm

What we need is someone knowledgable to craft the wording for a simple, uncomplicated, shareholder resolution stating that the company shall not spend funds on (pick one or more, carbon offsets, net Zero efforts, unreliable energy supplies, etc.), until they shall have shown shareholders the specific scientific proof that CO2 emissions are causing specific XYZ problems, and are not net-beneficial to human society, including the cost to power modern society without such fuels.

I would send such to several companies I own that have gone woke. I’d like to see a Board of Directors say they recommend NOT having proof before spending shareholder funds on a non-problem.

AndyHce
Reply to  BobM
November 30, 2022 3:27 pm

have you not noticed that press releases are consider positive proof by many?

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