While sustainability is not a new concept, companies are putting renewed focus on reducing the waste they produce. Pressures from regulatory agencies, investors, and other stakeholders have forced companies to analyze their waste output and identify ways to mitigate the impact on our environment. This, combined with a desire to fully understand how organizations are operating beyond the balance sheet, has resulted in the evolution from corporate social responsibility to the concept of environmental, social, and governance (ESG) as named in 2005, which is a more stakeholder-oriented approach to business. ESG aims to consider all non-financial risks of a business, and it facilitates measuring the performance in the identified key pillars. ESG-focused investments emphasize ethical and sustainable business operations beyond the typical financial benefits. Since 2005, the ESG has grown in popularity, with more than 90% of Therefore, as ESG framework becomes more widely accepted in the global marketplace, companies are prioritizing sustainable operations, and verifiable ESG data facilitates the measurement of key indicators.
Each company is on its own ESG journey, either reducing its environmental impacts, enhancing its employee and community relations, improving its data hygiene, integrity, and reporting, or a combination of all. Despite increased focus on using the ESG framework, it has recently been met with objections from business owners and However, there are multiple limitations to achieving the SDGs, including green hushing and anti-ESG movements.
What Is Green Hushing?
Green hushing refers to organizations deliberately hiding information or under-reporting their ESG scores from the public to avoid scrutiny or evading responsibility (Vollero,2022). This is closely related to greenwashing, when organizations make a false claim about their environmental credentials. However, the public knows the practice, and companies are coining new approaches. Companies practice green hushing to avoid being pointed out if they fall short of their ESG targets or being called out as greenwashing, persuading other stakeholders that their operations are more environmentally friendly than they are in reality. However, as some companies practice green hushing, others do it unintentionally and are unaware of the concept.
According to data from RepRisk, one in every five corporate risk incidents associated with ESG issues originates from greenwashing (Yang 2022). Sustainability stakeholders have engaged in this issue repeatedly as the number of corporates accused of green hushing increased. As sustainability matters become more known among business societies, the reasons for green hushing from concerns such as wanting to avoid boycotts and reputational risks to wanting to appear sustainable. However, as corporates make these false claims, they can hardly support the lack of data to prove them.
Greenhushing - A Need for Transparency
As consumers become more knowledgeable from the increased access to information from technology, the need for transparency rises. Therefore, corporates face the consequences of practicing green hushing or being consistent with ESG goals. When companies fail to disclose their sustainability position, they deny the stakeholders access to the real problem. The company also gives up a chance to inspire change and get credit as a role model. They also deceive consumers who intend to make informed decisions ad purchase from sustainable companies. Besides, green hushing blurs investors and sponsors of sustainable businesses, which would contribute to the planet’s transformation.
Green hushing seriously impacts the credibility of reports on sustainability pressures and the transitions towards sustainable societies. Companies that conceal their progress disorient the climate change management process. This results in underestimating the problem and, thus, low targets and a lack of collaboration among stakeholders for a sustainable environment. Green hushing implies that stakeholders make decisions based on fragmented information. Therefore, progress will be difficult unless corporates choose to speak out on their actual position in matters of sustainability.
The Anti-ESG Movement Is Harming the World
The ESG concept has elicited mixed responses from corporates and legislators. Upholding ESG implies limitations for non-sustainable business operations. This includes giving consumers various choices and therefore compelling businesses to shift towards sustainability through measures such as decarbonization in their operations. However, multiple personalities have risen in support of the anti-ESG movement. This is the most pressing barrier against corporate action against climate change.
Proponents of anti-ESG argue that corporates should stop following the environmentally and socially conscious investing (ESG) principles. They claim that such principles prioritize other issues apart from the business's financial and employee interests, which should be against the law. The movement has received support from stakeholders and investors, for example, Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and Bill Ackman, who are supporting a new financial firm dedicated to anti-ESG investing (Petrucci & Subramanian 2022). The movement seeks to isolate itself from politics, and industrialists are at the issue's core. They have launched campaigns against the adverse effects of products and the use of fossil fuels and cigarettes. The movement to ban conservative investing has now gotten mainstream conservative America on board. However, the trend is similar to the anti-CSR, which brought together polluting industries and corporations. In the US,17 states have already proposed or adopted legislation against ESG-oriented investments.
Green-hushing and anti-ESG deny the world the opportunity for climate change mitigation. The anti-ESG upholds the same old concepts of politically delaying action against climate change by fossil fuel industry stakeholders. They justify their proposition by focusing on their enterprise’s financial interests and the employment opportunities they offer millions of individuals to fend for their families. However, this raises concern over the sustainability of these opportunities; for example, use of fossil fuels results in the emission of greenhouse gases responsible for global warming, ultimately, climate change. The consequences of climate change include depletion of natural resources and disasters, which may be difficult to contain, unlike unemployment issues. Besides, there are alternative methods of production that industries can employ in production for minimal pollution of the environment. Sustainable business operation protects the entire community and guarantees a renewable supply of natural resources. Therefore, the discussion on ESG is inevitable.
How ESG Benefits Businesses
ESG issues are diverse across the economic sectors. For example, the energy sector has to handle greenhouse gas emissions which is hardly of concern in the banking sector. These differences in the priority of sectors from an ESG approach are materiality; thus, companies report on what is material to them. The primary aspect has been financial material which affects a company’s financial position through additional costs, loss of brand name, and loss of revenues as customers go for sustainable alternatives. Corporates are shifting to acknowledge multiple materialities in their cases alongside finances, for example, social material issues. Therefore, financial aspects are important but interdependent with social and governance matters.
Addressing matters of ESG benefits the business in several ways. Firstly, investing in ESG ensures a company is socially responsible (Cai et al. 2021). The concept is becoming a concern and key consideration by financial institutions and investors who are environmentally conscious. It is common for investors to consider organizations that reflect their values. According to Morgan Stanly Bank’s findings,90% of investors consider investments that reflect their values(Harvey 2021). Corporate lenders now consider ESG strategy before approving loans for propositions. Besides, the concept is becoming critical as businesses merge, investing assets and allocating resources. The ESG framework strategy is embedded in an enterprise's brand and determines the perspective of stakeholders, including consumers, suppliers, and communities. Therefore, factors should be at the core of an organization’s decision-making and the values of corporate leadership.
In addition, investing in ESG would help the company save the environment (Koller et al. 2019). Human activities in the current world are destructive in terms of resource exploitation and the generation of harmful waste. However, there is a minimal effort from the government to curb the problem, and it continues to aggravate it. Similarly, industrialists are hardly concerned, thus pushing the burden of environmental conservation to the government. This attitude results in irresponsibility; therefore, it is urgent that corporates take personal responsibility for their production processes and waste generation. Resolving the issues and working collaboratively to invest in ESG will better generate the expected results. Industrialists will limit the exploitation of natural resources and develop a framework for sustainable development, such as using renewable energy in manufacturing products to minimize waste generation and emissions. This facilitates the restoration of the natural ecosystem, where the environment can be self-sustaining through generations.
ESG also benefits companies regarding risk management and the general transformation of the entire corporate world (Sancak, 2023). As an investment, ESG is feasible for all types of enterprises. Through the ESG framework, organizations can manage high risks efficiently. For example, an organization can predetermine the hazardous waste generation from its production process and set up mitigation measures on time to protect the environment and evade the cost rectification post-pollution. This also includes the cost that a company would incur rebuilding a brand if pointed out as one of those green hushing and against the ESG principles. Managing every aspect of the business implies better performance. As consumers and other stakeholders demand sustainability from producers, corporates must comply despite the initial challenges. When more companies take up the ESG principles, the impact is collectively significant against green-hushing and anti-ESG.
In conclusion, ESG is essential in attaining the SDGs, particularly regarding the environment and businesses. This is why companies have to consider the ESG framework. Besides, the company has multiple benefits, ranging from reduced operating costs to better performance. However, sustainability requires a collective effort from various sectors, each addressing specific material issues. However, this change continues to face resistance from stakeholders with divergent interests, such as fossil fuel dealers, as it involves resource-intensive transformation. Consequently, businesses require the input of other stakeholders beyond sensitization, and this is where Keter Environmental Service comes in. The company assists business enterprises through data-driven waste management, after which companies have evidence of their environmental credentials and progress toward sustainability.
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