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Survey: Companies Across Nearly All Sectors Going Quiet on Green Goals

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ZURICH, SWITZERLAND—South Pole’s latest annual Net Zero Report found that the majority of surveyed companies in nine of the 14 major sectors are intentionally decreasing their climate communications, otherwise known as “greenhushing”, first evidenced by South Pole in 2022. This year’s report, which surveyed over 1,400 companies with dedicated sustainability leads, across 12 countries and 14 sectors, takes a closer look at companies choosing to not publicize their climate strategies or goals and deliberately decrease or cease external communications around them.

The report confirms, for the first time, that the trend of greenhushing is present across nearly every major sector around the world, from fashion, to tech, and FMCG, according to new independent research from South Pole, based on data collected by UK research firm Sapio.

There is a clear disconnect between corporates’ belief in the value of communicating their climate goals and their confidence in doing so. Of all those surveyed, most companies (81 percent) say that they know communicating net zero is good for their bottom line, but over half (58 percent) of those who are finding it as more difficult than before to communicate their climate action are deliberately planning to decrease their level of external communications. This tension is further exacerbated by the research findings, which imply that companies see net zero goals overall as central for commercial success: nearly half (46 percent) of all surveyed businesses said that they were pursuing net zero to meet customer demands, but also to improve risk management across their supply chains (39 percent).

The Impact of Compliance Measures

Every sector is soon to be or is already facing a new world of compliance measures on emissions reductions or sustainability, and these changes in policy are cited as one of the top drivers for why companies are greenhushing. The data suggests that most companies are struggling so much to adapt to new regulations and compliance schemes, and that they are no longer communicating their climate strategies and goals with confidence.

Fear of scrutiny by investors was another top reason for greenhushing, uniquely given by both most environmental services companies as well as oil and gas (51 percent and 57 percent respectively). It invites a debate on whether investor pressure and short-term financial goals could be deterring long-term climate action. Most other sectors—such as retail and fashion, tech, consumer goods, and transport—listed other top reasons, like “regulatory requirements’ and “lack of guidance on best practice”.

Surprisingly, most of all surveyed companies still found climate neutral claims “fit for purpose”, despite the rapidly changing and increasingly regulated landscape of corporate climate claims.

“Our latest research shows that too many companies in the surveyed cohort are working towards highly optimistic, possibly even unrealistic, net zero target dates of by 2030 or earlier. And while we see an encouraging number of science-based targets being set, it will be important for companies to keep in mind that SBTs require concerted action on scope 3 value chain emissions, and to ensure that they are consciously preparing for this,” says Franziska Sinner, Senior Director of Climate Strategies at South Pole.

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