How Organizational Communications AffectConsumer Perception of Corporate GreenwashingGerdien de Vries, Bart W. Terwel, Naomi Ellemers, Dancker D. L. Daamen Social and Organizational Psychology, Leiden University; CATO-2 WP 5.2 Project
Perception of Corporate Greenwashing: Whenpeople perceive a company to present itself asmore environment-friendly than it actually is Possible negative effects: Consumer protest and boycott, financial loss, and decreased credibility
What is perceived as corporate greenwashing?1. A hotel’s request to reuse towels in order to save the planet?2. A mineral water producer providing African children one day of clean drinking water for every liter water sold?3. An oil and gas company investing in a technology that helps reducing CO2 emissions?
Green CommunicationsBP’s “Go Green” campaign (2000)- Environmental concern- Investment in environmental technologies- Positive evaluations expectedHowever…- Environmental concern questioned (LeMenestrel et al., 2002)- Negative evaluations (lower corporate credibility) (García, 2011)
Are energy companies perceived as greenwashingwhen communicating a CSR motive for investment in an environmental technology? Perceived Communicated Corporate Motive Greenwashing
Experiments1. Three experiments University Leiden2. Background info on energy company investing in environmental technology (CO2 capture and storage technology)3. Company webpage with reason to invest: CSR-motive versus economic motive (except for baseline group).4. Questionnaire
Results (Mediation Model) β = .45* / β = .24nsExp. 2 Suspicion of Perceived Sobel z = 2.28, p = .022 Communicated β = .49* β = .42* Strategic Corporate Motive Behavior Greenwashing β = .59** / β = .38*Exp. 3 β = .48** Suspicion of β = .44** Perceived Sobel z = 2.70, p = .007 Communicated Strategic Corporate Motive Behavior Greenwashing ** p < .001 * p < .01
ConclusionsPeople perceive an energy company as greenwashing as soon as they hear that it invests in an environmental technologyCommunication of an economic motive decreases perception of corporate greenwashing. Communication of a CSR motive does not.Communication of a CSR motive leads to perceptions of corporate greenwashing because people suspect the energy company of strategic behavior.
Conclusion- Companies with ‘damaging’ reputations (e.g., tobacco and energy industries) who engage in CSR activities in the domain of their core business are regarded as hypocritical (Yoon, Gürhan-Canli, & Schwarz, 2006). -“If they want to save the world or prevent cancer, they could better end their core business!”- However, when they communicate an economic motive for these activities they are perceived as ‘honest’.
Discussion Are companies with neutral reputations also perceived as greenwashing when they are involved in CSR activities in the domain of their core business? Or do they benefit from this high fit?
Thank you for your attention. Questions? Gerdien de Vries firstname.lastname@example.org This research is part of CATO- 2, the Dutch national research program on CO2 capture and storage. CATO-2 is financially supported by the Dutch government and the CATO-2 consortium parties.