I know what "greenwashing" is. It's when companies tell us their products (or their company itself) is more environmentally friendly than they actually are. It's a misleading marketing ploy, leading us as consumers to feel proud we are shopping greener or doing a great job of "recycling." Additionally, it can lull us to think we are doing the right thing for the environment, when really, we continue to be part of the problem.
But what is greenhushing? Upon looking, it led me down the rabbit hole of wondering about more new terms. What about greenshifting, greendcrowding, greenlighting, greenlabeling, and greenrinsing?
As you can imagine, they all fall under the larger propaganda umbrella of greenwashing.
According to Euronews' August 14, 2023 article "What is Greenhushing? How to Spot the Sophisticated Greenwashing Tactics Being Used in 2023," by Angela Symons, the non-profit financial think tank Planet Tracker has broken greenwashing into 6 different types, all leading to my new vocabulary. The Euronews article has a lot of details and specific examples worth reading. Here is a quick highlight of the 6 types of greenwashing. Think of it as the hierarchy of "environmental fake news" and all different types of misrepresentation & misinformation about a company's "green-ness" and sustainability practices.
- Greencrowding--This is overcrowding the industry and hoping that your sustainability practices will be lost in the sea of numbers, preferably at a nice and slow pace.
- Greenlighting--Much like gaslighting, the product or company highlights one green feature (which may be small) and drawing attention away from their more non-sustainable, anti-eco practices.
- Greenshifting--This is when companies shift the blame from themselves and pushing it onto the fault of the consumer. Like the consumer should be recycling more, versus the company should be having a turn-in or buy-back center to make it easier for the consumer to do just that.
- Greenlabeling--This practice is when marketers mislead consumers with labels (either via text, imagery or both), indicating that something is green, sustainable, or organic, when maybe this isn't fully accurate.
- Greenrinsing--When companies reduce, delay, or change their environmental standards or targets, making it look like their overall recycling or sustainability initiatives are closer than they really are. Bringing the finish line closer does not mean you have achieved full environmental wins.
- Greenhushing--This is when companies under-report their sustainability information to avoid investor/public scrutiny.