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Neither Greenwashing Nor Greenblushing:
How to Find Your Sustainability Communications Sweet Spot

On Monday evening, opening night of SB '15 San Diego, Gregg LaBar and members of the Dix & Eaton team led a creative session in the Activation Hub. Instead of presenting from a PowerPoint, they asked a series of questions on their whiteboard, crowdsourced input from attendees, and empowered people to write down and interact with their ideas and those from other attendees. Ask meaningful questions and we usually get meaningful answers.

What was the deep-dive topic? Finding the communication sweet spot between “greenblushing” and greenwashing.

The opposite of greenwashing is “greenblushing” – and therein lies the sweet spot that is unique for every organization. Dix & Eaton define greenblushing as “limited or no information disseminated by an organization so as to understate or ignore its commitment to, and actions on, environmental and social responsibility.” This is often the case with organizations that are addressing the Three Ps – People, Planet and Profit – but not effectively communicating about their initiatives and successes.

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In essence, greenblushing is “walking the walk, but being too shy or lacking confidence to talk the talk.” Through Dix & Eaton’s research and extensive client work, they’ve encountered six characteristics of greenblushing that are fairly consistent in organizations in a wide variety of industries constrained by greenblushing:

  • Assuming your annual (or biannual) sustainability/corporate social responsibility is enough
  • Telling only the stories you are asked about
  • Neglecting to leverage your achievements internally
  • Shying away from the tougher topics
  • Feeling that what you’re doing is “not that special”
  • Assuming some stakeholders don’t care or don’t need to know

Leverage #Greenblushing Conversations

Similar to the opposite extreme of greenwashing … greenblushing can spin out negative consequences in terms of performance, perception, and long-term cultural challenges. This is certainly counterproductive and can be avoided with some communication tweaks.

Making the most of your sustainability/corporate social responsibility activities requires a clear, consistent communication strategy and integrated programs that effectively educate and engage internal and external audiences – and convey the realities of your organization’s sustainability integrity and performance. This is how to find your sustainability communications sweet spot.

Sustainability practitioners and leaders are discussing #greenblushing issues on Twitter. Based on what I experienced during Dix & Eaton’s conversations – watching participants share their ideas and concerns – maybe it’s a good time to start a similar conversation and whiteboard session in your organization. Brainstorming with colleagues and writing things down helps to create needed change.


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