Avoid the Green Hushing by building a team that makes a real impact
Avoid the Green Hushing by building a team that makes a real impact
Sustainable consciousness is rightfully on the rise, and businesses are increasingly seeking ways to showcase their sustainability efforts. However, a concept known as "green hushing" has emerged, casting doubt on the transparency of these eco-friendly claims.
Green hushing refers to the intentional silence or omission of important environmental information by companies. This deceptive practice sets it apart from greenwashing, which involves exaggerating or misleading consumers about environmental initiatives. A 2022 survey compiled by South Pole revealed that one in four companies surveyed have set science-based emission reduction targets, but they do not plan to publicise them because they are simply not achievable.
Before you can communicate your sustainability efforts, you need to have a clear vision and goals for what you want to achieve and why. It’s also imperative that these goals actually be achievable.
With achievable goals, it’s easy to avoid both greenwashing and green hushing
You need to build a team that can set and achieve the right goals for your business, and know how to communicate those goals to your target audience. But where do you start? Start with getting good leaders on board.
What to consider when adding sustainability executives to your team:
Where are you on your sustainability journey right now?
Whether you’re just starting out or have been on the journey for a while, it’s imperative to take stock of how much impact you’ve already made, who is currently on your team and what their level of expertise is. You’ll save yourself time and be able to make a bigger, tangible impact, by doing this upfront - because knowing what you’ve got is crucial to understanding what’s missing and what needs building on. You can then look to fill those gaps with a sustainability leader who has the right credentials and experience.
Your company culture: Does it already have sustainability at the forefront or is this a brand new venture?
The best way to make a big impact is by making sure that sustainability is integrated into your business as a whole. There’s no need to panic if it doesn’t, but it is definitely a consideration that needs to be taken when hiring a sustainability executive. Your Chief Sustainability Officer or Head of Sustainability needs to be able to do their job effectively, and having sustainability go beyond mere compliance is the way they’re going to do that. If the whole business is on board, your goals are going to be a whole lot more achievable.
What’s your current company culture like, and how do you want your new sustainability executive to fit in?
It’s important to focus on how your new Chief Sustainability Officer or Head of Sustainability will fit it with your team. A common mistake that gets made is hiring for credentials and ignoring characteristics. But realistically, you’re going to be able to make a bigger impact if your CSO gets on well with the rest of the team. They’re more likely to be able to inspire positive action, and be happier in their role meaning they’re more likely to stick around longer. It’ll save your business money, and help you make a more positive impact if you focus on hiring someone for their personality as well as their credentials.
What gaps need filling? Are you in need of someone with a more technical background, or do you need a more people-focussed role to be filled?
There are many different sector nuances when it comes to sustainability, so we don’t recommend hiring a sustainability lead from one of your competitors and expecting them to be a great fit for your business. No two sustainability roles are the same, and you might be surprised at who would actually be a perfect fit for your business.
GS2 recently took on a project to hire two Heads of Sustainability within one firm. One of the positions was very heavily focussed on data, with a technical briefing and background required. We focused on recruiting candidates with this specific skill set around energy management, data benchmarking, and assessment.
The other position was much more people-focussed. They were required to engage with businesses on the supply chain and bring individuals on a journey together. For this role, we focussed on recruiting more for a behavioural fit, looking for an interactive, personal individual. The successful candidate didn’t actually have the exact technical skills required, and came from another sector, but their generalist sustainability skill-set, along with their personality was what made her an exceptional fit.
When your focus is on the actual impact you’re making, rather than how you’re talking about that impact, you don’t need to worry about green hushing or green washing
That being said, it’s really important that you’re clear about what goals you’re setting and how you’re planning on achieving them. Don’t lean on fluffy language with no apparent meaning when discussing your sustainability efforts.
Buzzwords such as “green,” “natural,” and “environmentally friendly” communicate little about the actual environmental impact of a product or service. So get specific, “our towels are made of 80% organic cotton”, is more appropriate.
Terms like “compostable,” “biodegradable,” and “plastic-free” might seem like jargon but actually have precise regulated definitions. Being extra clear and explaining what that word actually means will not only help you avoid green hushing, but it’ll help you make a bigger impact because your consumers will know how to dispose of their waste properly.
Bring your effort to life
Impact reports are a perfect way of showcasing what you are doing. As the availability of data to monitor and record ESG becomes more sophisticated, businesses will need to ensure that the ESG plans are fully integrated into all areas of the business. But putting the foundations in now is key to success and reaching your targets. Put simply, avoiding the green hush comes down to doing what you say you’ll do, monitoring these efforts, recording them and then showing them off with aplomb! And doing all of that is a lot easier with the right team behind you.
To understand more about how GS2 can support you on this journey, please get in touch.
GS2 Partnership, a global talent solutions organisation on a critical journey to connect the people who believe in leaving the world better than they found it. As a certified B Corp pending organisation, we support organisations of all size and scales across the UK, Europe and US. Our solutions attract, assess, onboard and retain leaders within their Executive Teams along with Impact investing, ESG, sustainability, corporate affairs, communication and responsible business functions.