In today’s world, where environmental, social and governance (ESG) issues are receiving significant attention, companies are increasingly scrutinized not only for their impact on the planet and society, but also for their message . As a result, some organizations have adopted a strategy of “green silence” to avoid backlash and negative publicity.
While the concept of green silence may seem counterintuitive at first glance, it can have significant positive impacts when implemented correctly and responsibly. In this blog post, we explore why companies that want to stave off negative reactions through green silence can ultimately contribute broadly to corporate sustainability if they don’t restore the planet.
Understanding green silence
Green silence refers to the practice of deliberately avoiding public disclosure of a company’s green and social initiatives, especially when there is fear of backlash or potential negative perception, or possible legal jeopardy. We introduced the emerging phenomenon in a blog a few weeks ago, Green silence versus confidentiality. Companies that adopt this as a strategy choose not to emphasize their ESG efforts; some even now avoid using the acronym ESG, often to protect their brand image or maintain a competitive advantage in the marketplace.
There has been widespread media reporting that Target, Anheuser Busch and Kohls have collectively lost more than $28 billion in market value in just a few weeks due to major backlash to their Pride campaigns and products. And Delta Air Lines was sued last month over an improper greenwashing claim that carbon offsets don’t actually offset. Shareholders and others in those companies and across the business landscape are now dramatically forcing corporate leaders to remain silent and not publish ESG claims.
We know that the number of mentions by listed companies about ESG, including green and social initiatives, during this year’s earnings calls has declined significantly as they try to avoid controversy. And we know anecdotally that US public companies have asked to scale back or even eliminate ESG results and scores posted on their websites this past quarter; However, we do not see any corresponding efforts to scale back the underlying ESG initiatives themselves.
Positive aspects of green silence
1. Encouraging real change: By staying quiet about their green and social initiatives, companies can shift their focus from public perception to the actual implementation of policies, from LGBTQIA+ to anti-slavery. Rather than just demonstrating their commitment to sustainability, organizations can use their resources to make meaningful changes across their operations, supply chains and products.
2. Eliminating ‘greenwashing’: GreenwashingMisleadingly portraying a company as environmentally friendly without substantive actions to back up such claims is a growing concern in the business world. By practicing green silence, companies can avoid falling into the trap of empty promises, both perceived and real, and instead channel their efforts into substantive sustainable practices. This approach promotes authenticity and prevents reputational damage caused by accusations of greenwashing.
3. Softening public skepticism: Public perception can be fickle, and some stakeholders may view companies’ sustainability efforts with skepticism, especially if they view them purely as marketing tactics. By avoiding excessive disclosure, companies can work to build a solid foundation for sustainable practices without facing direct scrutiny. Over time, the results of their actions can help build trust and credibility among stakeholders.
4. Promoting competition and innovation: Green silence can also create an environment that encourages healthy competition between companies. When organizations keep their sustainability efforts private, their competitors may be forced to step up their game and adopt sustainable practices themselves. This dynamic can lead to a positive ripple effect, pushing industries toward greater innovation and overall sustainability.
5. Strategic advantage: Green silence can also give companies a competitive advantage in the market. By keeping their sustainability practices discreet, organizations can maintain unique selling points or differentiators that set them apart from their competitors. When implemented thoughtfully, green hushing can enable companies to strategically leverage their sustainable initiatives, helping them gain market share and attract environmentally conscious customers.
Again, it is important to note that we are not seeing any signs of companies retreating from environmental and social governance initiatives themselves, but rather companies making major shifts and choosing to remain quiet and not make their claims and successes public to make.
While transparency and accountability remain crucial elements of ESG, green silence is a strategic approach for companies looking to mitigate risk by avoiding backlash from extreme voices and concerns about greenwashing claims, and by strengthening their long-term sustainability efforts. increase in our current hyperpolitical situation. world.
By focusing on real change to restore the planet, avoid greenwashing, soften public skepticism, promote innovation, and gain strategic advantage, companies can effectively navigate the complex landscape of sustainability and ensure their actions speak louder then speak words at a time when the assumption that business and politics can and even should be separated is no longer realistic. Today we are seeing a dramatic shift in tactics, as more organizations seek the balance between green silence and appropriate transparency, to ensure that their commitment to sustainability is ultimately communicated in an authentic and responsible way. Some business matters are best kept quiet.