Nine of 14 sectors surveyed by carbon management advisor South Pole see reduced climate communications; 44% of firms find it more difficult than before due to regulatory changes, lack of clarity but 81% say net-zero messaging is beneficial for bottom line

Sample article from our Government & Public Policy

January 24, 2024 (press release) –

The majority of surveyed companies - nine of the 14 major sectors - are actively decreasing their climate communications.

Despite this, the vast majority (81%) of companies said communicating net zero is good for their bottom line. But nearly half (44%) of all surveyed businesses find it more difficult than before, with a lack of clarity and changing regulation given as to why.

Alongside meeting market demands, risk management and resilience-building were the top drivers for corporate net zero: 39% of all surveyed businesses cited the need for better oversight of supply chain risk, followed closely by future-proofing organisations against external shocks (37%).

Zurich, 17 Jan, 2024 – South Pole's latest annual Net Zero Report released today found that the majority of surveyed companies in nine of the 14 major sectors are intentionally decreasing their climate communications, otherwise known as 'greenhushing', first evidenced by South Pole in 2022. This year's report, which surveyed over 1,400 companies with dedicated sustainability leads, across 12 countries and 14 sectors, takes a closer look at companies choosing to not publicise their climate strategies or goals and deliberately decrease or cease external communications around them.

The report confirms, for the first time, that the trend of 'greenhushing' is present across nearly every major sector around the world, from fashion, to tech, and FMCG, according to new independent research from South Pole, based on data collected by UK research firm Sapio.

There is a clear disconnect between corporates' belief in the value of communicating their climate goals and their confidence in doing so. Of all those surveyed, most companies (81%) say that they know communicating net zero is good for their bottom line, but over half (58%) of those who are finding it as or more difficult than before to communicate their climate action are deliberately planning to decrease their level of external communications. This tension is further exacerbated by the research findings, which imply that companies see net zero goals overall as central for commercial success: nearly half (46%) of all surveyed businesses said that they were pursuing net zero to meet customer demands, but also to improve risk management across their supply chains (39%).

Every sector is soon to be or is already facing a new world of compliance measures on emissions reductions or sustainability, and these changes in policy are cited as one of the top drivers for why companies are 'greenhushing'. Today's data suggests that most companies are struggling so much to adapt to new regulations and compliance schemes, and that they are no longer communicating their climate strategies and goals with confidence.

Fear of scrutiny by investors was another top reason for 'greenhushing', uniquely given by both a majority of environmental services companies as well as oil and gas ( 51% and 57% respectively). It invites a debate on whether investor pressure and short-term financial goals could be deterring long-term climate action. Most other sectors – such as retail and fashion, tech, consumer goods, and transport – listed other top reasons, like “regulatory requirements" and “lack of guidance on best practice".

Surprisingly, the majority of all surveyed companies still found climate neutral claims 'fit for purpose', despite the rapidly changing and increasingly regulated landscape of corporate climate claims.

“Our latest Net Zero Report finds a continuing and deepening contradiction between taking corporate climate but choosing not to communicate around it. Unfortunately, the vast majority of global companies are doing nothing at all, with no public targets to show," says John Davis, Interim CEO, South Pole. "It is possible that our research findings are simply an indication of a corporate 'hush' before the regulatory storm, which will inevitably require all companies to communicate their climate impact and progress on net zero goals. As corporate climate action continues to mature, now is the time for business leaders to meet the moment, and openly share both progress and challenges on climate action, so that we can monitor this and also learn from mistakes."

“Our latest research shows that too many companies in the surveyed cohort are working towards highly optimistic, possibly even unrealistic, net zero target dates of by 2030 or earlier. And while we see an encouraging number of science-based targets being set, it will be important for companies to keep in mind that SBTs require concerted action on scope 3 value chain emissions, and to ensure that they are consciously preparing for this," says Franziska Sinner, Senior Director of Climate Strategies at South Pole.

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Notes to editors

Now in its fourth year, South Pole's latest Net Zero Report includes insights from 1,400 global sustainability executives who have direct decision making authority over their company's sustainability strategy and teams. While this is a sample of more climate-conscious companies, it offers a valuable window into the complex world of corporate action and how it is evolving.

Despite the confirmed pervasiveness of 'greenhushing', the study shows that polled companies are still committed to net zero emissions and investing beyond their value chains. The surveyed climate-conscious companies continue to set net zero targets (83%); most are investing beyond their value chains (81%); over three quarters (76%) claim to be increasing their budgets to meet their net zero targets, and the vast majority say the feel like they are “on track" to meeting targets (81%, up from 67% in 2022).

A significant portion of all surveyed companies are finding the actual delivery of their net zero target 'as difficult as expected' (45%) and even nearly a quarter saying 'less difficult' (23%). Interestingly, the majority of those in the oil and gas sector say reaching their net zero target has been" 'as difficult as expected'' (53%).

Alongside meeting market and customer demands (46%), 39% of all surveyed businesses cited the need for better oversight of supply chain risk as one of the top drivers for net zero targets, followed closely by future-proofing their organisations against external shocks (37%).

To contextualise the findings, South Pole also analysed its proprietary database of 77,000 companies – including the Global Fortune 500, major stock indices, and all CDP and GRI reporting companies. Compared to the 'climate-conscious' cohort of 1,400 surveyed companies, a mere 8% of the database companies have set a net zero emissions target – a 75% drop compared to the surveyed businesses. Of these 8% database companies with net zero targets, less than half (45%), are underpinned with SBTs.

Media contact

Isabel Hagbrink, Senior Director of Global Communications, South Pole -

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