One in four companies quietly shelving progress on net-zero pledges

While companies are investing in climate reporting, many don’t publicise the results

Samuel Webb
Tuesday 18 October 2022 13:31 BST
Greta Thunberg accuses global leaders of presiding over ‘greenwash festival’

A quarter of companies that set targets to meet their net-zero commitments are quietly shelving reports about their progress in a process known as ‘green-hushing’, according to a study.

A report by climate analysts South Pole found that an increasing number of climate-aware companies are supporting their net-zero commitments with science-based targets, yet one in four does not plan to talk about them.

Doing so makes corporate climate targets harder to scrutinise and limits knowledge-sharing on decarbonisation, researchers claim, potentially leading to less ambitious targets being set and missed opportunities for industries to collaborate.

"We see that sustainability-minded businesses are increasingly backing up their targets with science-based emissions reduction milestones, which is absolutely the right approach.

“But if a quarter today aren’t coming forward with details on what makes their target credible, could corporate green-hushing be spreading?

“The speed at which we are overshooting our planetary boundaries is mindblowing. More than ever we need the companies making progress on sustainability to inspire their peers to make a start. This is impossible if progress is happening in silence," says Renat Heuberger, CEO of South Pole.

South Pole’s findings suggest companies are continuing to set net-zero targets and increasing budgets to support them, yet this reluctance to publicise science-aligned climate targets raises questions.

Dan Botterill, founder and CEO of sustainability platform Rio, described the green-hushing phenomenon as “just as duplicitous and cynical as greenwashing”.

“But in the same way consumers are beginning to identify companies that use advertising and social media to appear more climate-friendly and environmentally sustainable than they really are, they will become aware of businesses that hide their climate impact,” he added. “This might lead to boycotts and reputation damage.”

“Sustainability is hard and companies can be forgiven for struggling to meet their climate goals, particularly in these unstable economic times.

“But hiding the results of climate reporting is short-sighted. It is better to identify weaknesses, be open about it and then pledge to do better.”

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in