What is Green Hushing and is it an Industry Issue?

Published 24th Apr 2023
You've heard of greenwashing, now there's a new negative sustainability trend to get your head around - green hushing. But what is it and should the hairdressing industry be worried?

What is Green Hushing?

The European Commission recently proposed a directive on regulating 'Green Claims', The Green Claims Directive, which will come into effect in 2024, aims to regulate the use of environmental claims in marketing communications through the use of words such as 'sustainable' and 'eco-friendly' without providing clear and accurate information about the environmental impact of their products or services. The directive also prevents unsubstantiated or vague environmental claims. And so, faced with the fear of legal trouble or a damaged reputation some companies are intentionally keep quiet about their sustainability goals, even if they are well meaning, due to their worry of being accused of greenwashing. To be clear greenwashing is when a company makes an unsubstantiated claim to deceive consumers into believing their products are environmentally friendly.
Janene Hawkins, Founder of Heavenly Hair hopes that green hushing won't become an issue but fears that it could: "The road to recovery since covid has been long for some salons, and many still feel like they're dancing on eggs shells. The fear of bad publicity for greenwashing (even when you're not) can be very real, but the best way to combat it, as with everything in our industry, is knowledge. As an industry, we need to be open about being green so others will follow."
Keith Mellen and Anne Veck, winners of British Hairdressing Business Award Sustainability Salon of the Year 2022, have created a freely downloadable Salon Re:Source toolkit which breaks down the steps to becoming more sustainable in an encouraging and supportive way. Keith explains that labels such as green hushing aren't helpful when it comes to businesses and their sustainability journeys: "Green hushing adds to the negative labels around sustainability and it can bring judgement and fearful practice into what should be a growing and encouraged practice of transparency. Some companies don't do it deliberately, whilst others do, do it consciously - often because they don't want to take the risk of being accused of green washing."
The positive effect of raising awareness of sustainability has meant that major brands in our industry are now producing and promoting sustainable products. Keith believes that the right amount of market and regulatory pressure is likely to encourage a shift from greenwashing to genuine action, however green hushing could be seen as an unintended consequence of the campaign against greenwashing. "It is a real shame if businesses feel they can't talk about the steps they are taking to tackle climate change and the nature crises because they aren't 100% sustainable yet. But no business is or can be. It's a journey and if a company has only recently got on board they should be encouraged rather than criticised. My hope is that hair and beauty manufacturers, as well as salon owners and hairdressers, will continue to talk freely about the importance of sustainability. What businesses can do to save the planet is too important a topic to be brushed under the carpet."
To find out more about sustainability in the industry, check out HJ's sustainability week programme of content here and our handy guide to recycling symbols and what they mean.  Today's Sustainability Week content is sponsored by Takara Belmont.

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