Greenhushing: why some sustainability committed accommodation businesses only communicate 30% of what they do

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You are a great business that does lots for the environment and local community, and you just gained an award or ecolabel for your hard work. So what do you do now? Adding the logo on your website and sticking some towel reuse signs will fail to convince clients that you are a better hotel. You will need to be more creative.  Unfortunately, you are shy…

So you ‘greenhush’.

Greenhushing is the deliberate withholding – from customers and stakeholders – of information about the sustainability practices that businesses employ. This is the opposite of greenwashing, and it happens more often than you might think.

Our analysis shows that small sustainability committed businesses communicate 30% of all the sustainability actions practiced, based on a comparison of their sustainability audits and their websites.

We interviewed the accommodation businesses to understand their reasons. They perceived customers would not care, or that it would make them come across as having less quality, or inconveniencing customers, or at worst appear hypocritical.

We found that most businesses had chosen to communicate their sustainability actions quite literally – stating facts, and not sufficiently focusing on the customer benefits. These businesses responded positively when at interview we showed them more creative ways of communicating, using approaches which fitted with their idea of customer expectations.

However, few businesses felt confident in creating these sorts of persuasive communications, and so choose instead to not communicate at all. This tension between acting sustainably, but believing you cannot communicate it for fear of sounding preachy and patronising, creates conflict for these individuals. Yet this disappointment and frustration can be alleviated by learning how to communicate sustainability persuasively.

Read the full article at: Font, X., Elgammal, I. and Lamond, I (2016) Greenhushing: the deliberate under communicating of sustainability practices by tourism businesses, Journal of Sustainable Tourism http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09669582.2016.1158829

If you do not have access to the full article, you can use this version http://eprints.leedsbeckett.ac.uk/2355/

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