Stock photo of industrial emissions

Companies are increasingly trying to keep their climate pledges away from public scrutiny. The phenomenon, known as “green hushing,” has become pervasive, even as businesses set more ambitious internal sustainability targets, according to a survey by South Pole, a climate consultancy and carbon-offsets developer.

South Pole surveyed respondents in 1,200 large companies from 12 countries, all of which have set net-zero carbon emissions targets and more than two-thirds of which identify as “heavy emitters.” It found that although a majority of companies have set science-based targets to help them deliver on their commitments, 23 percent “don’t plan to publicize”  them.

The findings suggest that the stigma of so-called “greenwashing,” where a company exaggerates its green credentials, is so feared that executives will do anything to avoid being accused of it. Being labeled a greenwasher brings with it reputational harm, financial damage, and—increasingly—the scrutiny of regulators. And once tainted by such allegations, companies can struggle to resurrect their reputations.

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