What is ‘Greenhushing’?

Green­hush­ing has emerged as a con­tem­po­rary con­cept with­in the realm of envi­ron­men­tal respon­si­bil­i­ty. You might know ‘Green­wash­ing.’ It’s com­mon in fash­ion. Brands use it to appear eco-friend­ly with mis­lead­ing claims.

‘Green­hush­ing’ is the lat­est addi­tion to this lex­i­con, and refers to sit­u­a­tions where a brand delib­er­ate­ly remains silent about its achieve­ments, even if they are sin­cere­ly well-inten­tioned and cred­i­ble.

Pho­tog­ra­phy by Kristi­na Flour


At a time when over-informed con­sumers, and in par­tic­u­lar the new gen­er­a­tions X, Y and Z, are increas­ing­ly look­ing to brands that are mind­ful of their car­bon foot­print and eth­i­cal pro­duc­tion prac­tices due to recent years with the accel­er­a­tion of glob­al warm­ing, some brands choose to not pub­li­cize their envi­ron­men­tal efforts.

In green­hush­ing, no state­ments are made at all, or ele­ments are under­stat­ed, even when prac­tices are pos­i­tive. Brands opt for dis­creet com­mu­ni­ca­tion, poten­tial­ly hin­der­ing their envi­ron­men­tal com­mit­ment vis­i­bil­i­ty, but this may pre­vent them from:

  • Reach­ing eco-sen­si­tive con­sumers,
  • Build a sus­tain­able and respon­si­ble brand rep­u­ta­tion, etc.
Pho­tog­ra­phy by Matthew Ten­Bruggen­cate


This is a trend that is already mak­ing itself felt in fash­ion and beyond. Green­hush­ing stands in con­trast to green­wash­ing and might impede envi­ron­men­tal advance­ments instead of facil­i­tat­ing them.

‘Com­pa­nies shar­ing their expe­ri­ence can inspire oth­ers and lead to peer pres­sure.’ — Karine Bas­so

Indeed, one could con­sid­er green­hush­ing an essen­tial aspect of the jour­ney, empha­siz­ing the sub­stan­tial efforts need­ed to progress towards a more envi­ron­men­tal­ly sus­tain­able fash­ion indus­try.

Dur­ing COP 27 in Egypt, held from Novem­ber 6th to 18th 2022, the Unit­ed Nations high­light­ed a recent trend observed among cer­tain com­pa­nies. They described ‘green­hush­ing’ as a prac­tice adopt­ed by too many com­pa­nies. Accord­ing to the Unit­ed Nations, ‘green­hush­ing’ is when com­pa­nies por­tray them­selves as cli­mate change cham­pi­ons while delib­er­ate­ly with­hold­ing the specifics of their envi­ron­men­tal com­mit­ment.

The Ques­tion is: ‘Why do some brands choose to mask their envi­ron­men­tal efforts?’

Brands may engage in green­hush­ing because they:

  • Fear reper­cus­sions, fear of being wrong­ly accused of green­wash­ing and not doing enough for the envi­ron­men­tal cause because to val­ue its envi­ron­men­tal actions has now become a real chal­lenge for brands,
  • Fear of com­mu­ni­cat­ing poor­ly, of choos­ing the wrong terms to use and there­fore of impact­ing its brand image,
  • Fear that they actu­al­ly have some­thing to hide, because beneath the silence may lie pos­i­tive actions. At times, silence or vague­ness may sig­nal hid­den issues.
Pho­tog­ra­phy by 🇸🇮 Janko Fer­lič

To assert that some­thing is “sus­tain­able” sug­gests the abil­i­ty to trace its entire sup­ply chain, start­ing from the sourc­ing or extrac­tion of raw mate­ri­als in the case of syn­thet­ic fab­rics, all the way through to the fin­ish­ing process­es. Con­se­quent­ly, there’s a risk of scruti­ny and poten­tial con­se­quences if we can­not sub­stan­ti­ate every aspect of this sus­tain­abil­i­ty claim.

Dis­cov­er more eth­i­cal sub­jects, vis­it our ded­i­cat­ed sec­tion.

Written by Cassandra Calif
May 2, 2024

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