Greenwashing vs Greenhushing

  • by Vivienne Austin

As consumers, it's important to consider the impact of the products and services we use on the environment. However, distinguishing between companies that genuinely care about the environment and those that use green marketing tactics can be difficult. Greenwashing and Greenhushing are two such tactics that can be confusing to identify and the latter is scarily one of the most trending one within large corporations at the moment.



What is Greenwashing?

Greenwashing is a practice where a company makes exaggerated or false claims about the environmental benefits of a product or service. The intent is to deceive consumers into believing that the product or service is more eco-friendly than it actually is. This practice has become a prevalent issue in recent years, with many companies using it as a means to deceive consumers into purchasing their products or services. A 2020 European Commission study found that a quarter of misleading environmental claims came from the fashion industry, suggesting it’s the worst culprit when it comes to greenwashing. 


To avoid falling prey to greenwashing, as consumers, we should all be aware of the types of claims that companies make about their products or services. Here are some common examples of greenwashing claims:

  • Vague or meaningless terms: Companies may use terms like "natural" or "eco-friendly" without any clear definition of what those terms mean.
  • Irrelevant claims: Companies may make claims about the environmental benefits of a product or service that are irrelevant to its overall impact on the environment.
  • False certifications: Some companies may use fake certifications or labels to make their products appear more eco-friendly than they actually are.

By being aware of these tactics, consumers can make more informed decisions about the products and services they choose to purchase.


What is Greenhushing?


Greenhushing refers to the intentional under-reporting or concealment of an organisation's green or ESG credentials from the public eye to avoid scrutiny. While some businesses use the guise of being "quietly conscientious" to avoid the limelight, this vagueness may lead to the assumption that they are greener than they actually are.


However, it’s not all bad. Genuinely eco-minded companies may have reasons for under-reporting their sustainability credentials. Smaller firms may fear being asked for excessive amounts of data, which could strain their resources. In some cases, companies may prefer to test their green credentials over a longer period before announcing their impact. This can protect them from regulatory fines or accusations of greenwashing, which may come under greater scrutiny if announced prematurely.



Greenwashing vs Greenhushing

Governments and regulators are currently starting to take action to combat the increase in greenwashing. In the UK, labelling regulations for sustainable investment funds will be strengthened, while "environmental" labels on toiletries, food, and drink will be scrutinised.

The European Green Deal introduced a proposal for new EU greenwashing legislation in March 2023. The legislation aims to prevent companies from making ambiguous, generic, and unverified environmental claims with terms such as “sustainable”, “ethical” and so on. It also outlines specific criteria for companies to verify their environmental claims and labels, which must be reviewed by an accredited and independent verifier. Furthermore, the legislation sets out new guidelines for environmental labelling.


Some experts predict that this crackdown on greenwashing could lead to a new period of "greenhushing." While addressing the issue of greenwashing is important, some argue that the rise of greenhushing could slow down environmental progress. If fewer companies are advertising their eco-friendly practices, it may reduce the incentive for others to adopt similar practices.


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