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Greenwashing, greenhushing and the IKEA Way June 30, 2008

Posted by Raul in environment, food for thought, public policy issues, sustainability.
Tags: , , ,

Often times, I get so carried away with the whole social media and tech discussions (try Googling iPhone Rogers and you’ll know what I am talking about) that I tend to forget to talk about the field where my expertise lies: environment. I did not go to graduate school in this field just to let it slip through the cracks. So I was quite pleased to see a few opportunities opening for me this week to have enviro-geek discussions on my blog, and meld my two worlds: tech-geeky and enviro-geeky.

Darren Barefoot is helping IKEA Canada spread the word about IKEA’s most recent initiative: The IKEA Way. What is this? In a nutshell,

The IKEA Way is our promise. We promise that we’re working towards having an overall positive impact on people and the environment. In other words, we’re going to be nice to people and nice to the planet. Sounds ambitious for a global company? It shouldn’t. We believe it’s just part of smart business, but more than that β€” it’s the right thing to do. [The IKEA Way – What We Do]

In the academic literature I have frequently come across the concept of “GreenWashing”. In non-enviro-geek terms, greenwashing refers to the deployment of a series of strategies and tactics that will make your company “look” green but it does not mean that you will indeed be undertaking measures to reduce your company’s environmental impact.

While doing a little research for this post, I came across a really neat article on TreeHugger titled “Greenhushing doesn’t help anyone“. So what is greenhushing? Pretty much the opposite of greenwashing: when a company doesn’t want to promote its environmentally-conscious efforts for fear that they will be taken as greenwashing.

As Stiffelman points out, greenhushing may just be as bad as greenwashing. Why not promote your efforts if you are actually a company that is trying to better its environment? That’s one of my own personal pet peeves. If you have it, flaunt it! The whole concept of eco-labelling is predicated on this idea – my products are more environmentally-friendly, thus merit eco-labels (be it SeaChoice, Forest Stewardship Council, Environmental Choice or any of the other ecolabels floating around).

The IKEA Way seems to me like a good initiative (I have been perusing the website and offered some feedback on how the website and the overall initiative can be strengthened). Of course, there is work to be done, but at least, these are some steps towards better environmental performance. And besides, who doesn’t like IKEA furniture? I do… πŸ˜€

Moreover, this looks like a perfect mesh of Web 2.0 and environment. This is the direction where my own work is going to go, I can see that. I like to harness the power of Web 2.0 to effect social change and sustainability. Hat tips to Darren for pointing me out to the IKEA Way.


1. Darren - July 1, 2008

Thanks for the write-up, there, Raul. I’d never heard of the term ‘greenhushing’–it’s apt.

Personally, I think they could have added a lot more social media features to TheIkeaWay.ca–I’m encouraging them to do so.

2. DaveO - July 21, 2008

Great commentary about the corporate way of greening up. Can be a fine line between eco-sincerity and just-for-marketing.

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