Retailers should ‘green-shout’, not ‘green-hush’ as consumers seek transparency and support brands that are vocal about their sustainability efforts.


Increasingly retailers have been caught out in their less than admirable attempts to greenwash customers – overstating their environmental efforts in an attempt to attract market appeal.

For example, retailers may have hidden trade offs in their claims, such as dedication to switch to recycled plastics whilst increasing carbon emissions in other areas of the business, or claims that are vague or false and false certifications.

As efforts are scrutinised, the pendulum has swung the opposite way to ‘green-hushing’. Fear has set in where retailers are concerned that if they speak of their climate and sustainability agendas they will be scrutinised as to not raising the bar high enough. According to a Microsoft study, 72 per cent of Australian retail businesses have set a goal of net-zero emissions by 2050; 25 per cent of them expected to miss this target. It’s little surprising that 93% of Australian businesses have had discussions around green-hushing within their business.

It’s time for Australian retailers to set realistic goals and initiatives and start green-shouting. Rather than wait for perfection on climate initiatives, they should talk about the good work they’re already doing. – importantly giving customers the tools and means to participate in that journey to climate and nature positive futures.

Forward-thinking fashion retailers are spearheading this movement, launching funds aimed at accelerating climate solutions in the Australian fashion industry, setting goals to reach net zero by 2040 and to have all stores and places of work using renewables by 2030.

The need to green-shout is pressing. The retail sector carbon emissions make up over 25 per cent of global emissions, according to the World Retail Congress. On top of this, the average Australian purchases 27 kg of new fashion and textiles each year. Almost all of this is thrown away.

However, some positive and tangible innovations that we are seeing in the sector as Circularity is actioned. The ‘10 Rs’ of circularity – refuse, reuse, rethink, reduce, repair, refurbish, remanufacture, repurpose, recycle, recover – are now mandated. In doing so, retailers are building a resilience and responding to a warmer future.

Warmer living innovation is emerging as we embrace a future where global warming moves to global boiling. In a push to reduce energy consumption at the retail freezer, one innovation has seen new frozen product recipes that can remain stable at a warmer temperature of -12°C, not the standard -18C, without impacting taste or texture. This higher temperature difference requires 20-30 per cent less energy is required.

Re-commerce, resale and repair is on the rise and is way retailers are reframing austerity in a cost of living crisis to climate positive behaviours. In an average month 40 per cent of Facebook’s 3.03 billion active users buy something on Facebook Marketplace.

Governments are playing their part in regen retail too. France will now pay its citizens to have clothes repaired as of October 2023. The French government offers a “repair bonus” that allows people to reclaim between €6 to €25 of the cost of mending their clothes and shoes. With an estimated 700,000 tons of clothing thrown away in France each year, the new waste-cutting scheme will have a major impact. Other countries should take note.

Rewarding positive climate behaviours. Increasingly retailers are providing consumers with the climate positive tools and rewarding them for participating. Loyalty Programs which reward shoppers for sustainable purchases with discount vouchers– for buying from dedicated renewable ranges and products, bringing in their own reusable bag or recycling old garments in store– are a great way to not only build brand loyalty, but also equip consumers with the tools needed to make climate positive choices.

Ai retails sustainable saviour. Other models include digital trackers of products via digital product passports, which detail everything from ingredient composition to manufacturing processes, giving consumers a transparent view of ingredient and product lifecycle. Microsoft found that 53 per cent of Australian retailers are using new technologies to monitor their supply chains for sustainability impacts. According to the World Economic Forum, AI forecasting tools help businesses achieve carbon neutrality by monitoring emission rates and promoting recycling. The WEF predict that AI services in the retail sector are predicted to increase from $5 billion to above $31 billion by 2028.

While many retailers are focused on delivering value in the cost-of-living crisis, it’s easy to make the default position of short termism view on the environment and to green-hush, or worse, de-prioritise sustainability initiatives.

However, consumers are re-organising to meet retailers where there is a longevity play in product, process and planet: 71 per cent of surveyed Australians are concerned about climate change (Australian Institute 2023). In January 2024, half of Australians said they’re more likely to buy from businesses making a positive environmental impact, but two in three say they’d make environmentally friendly choices more often if they were more affordable (Fiftyfive5 Auspulse National Survey).

Key take aways

Green shout – Set climate goals that can be delivered on and share the journey to get there. Talk about the good work and initiatives that are in place and the tangible steps to deliver.

Embrace warmer living innovation. Rethink the models of old to new circular models.

Empower consumers with the tools that allow them to participate in positive behaviours and reward them accordingly.

Leverage Ai to monitor, track and forecast emissions and its ability to fast track climate positive futures.

The era of “green hushing” is over. Green shout as consumers seek transparency and support brands vocal about their sustainability efforts. The onus is on retailers to drive the change. Consumers want it all and expect value and sustainability not to be a trade-off.

The byline was originally published on Retail World by Michelle Newton, Head of Cultural Forecasting, Fiftyfive5 part of Accenture Song.