by Gregg LaBar

October 26, 2009

In the world of sustainability, we know to be wary of greenwashing, which the watchdog group CorpWatch defines as “disinformation disseminated by an organization so as to present an environmentally responsible public image.” It’s “talking the talk” without “walking the walk.”

Starting today, greenwashing has an opposite term.

Introducing… the equally challenging condition I have coined “greenblushing,” which I define as “limited or no information disseminated by an organization so as to understate or ignore its commitment to and actions on environmental responsibility.” It’s walking the walk but being too unsure and shy to talk the talk.

How big of a problem is it? Right now, probably more so than greenwashing. While warranted in some cases, the attack on greenwashing has had a chilling effect on proactive, successful companies, who are now wary of telling their sustainability stories.

What are some symptoms of greenblushing?

1. Believing you need “all the answers” before you can talk about your progress and the ongoing journey

2. Being reluctant to talk about your sustainability activities, even when asked to or recognized by outside parties

3. Downplaying your achievements internally, which can be very de-motivating

4. Afraid to bring it up with customers in case they’re ahead of you or not particularly interested

5. Always assuming there’s more risk than reward in talking about your sustainability activities

6. And, finally, feeling that what you’re doing is “not that special,” when, in fact, others could learn a lot from your ideas

You’ve been warned before about greenwashing, but beware of the other extreme, greenblushing.