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Session 3, de Vries

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Greenwashing & Credibility

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Session 3, de Vries

  1. 1. How Organizational Communications Affect Consumer Perception of Corporate Greenwashing Gerdien de Vries, Bart W. Terwel, Naomi Ellemers, Dancker D. L. Daamen Social and Organizational Psychology, Leiden University; CATO-2 WP 5.2 Project
  2. 2. Possible negative effects: Consumer protest and boycott, financial loss, and decreased credibility Perception of Corporate Greenwashing: When people perceive a company to present itself as more environment-friendly than it actually is
  3. 3. 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? What is perceived as corporate greenwashing?
  4. 4. Green Communications BP’s “Go Green” campaign (2000) - Environmental concern - Investment in environmental technologies - Positive evaluations expected However… - Environmental concern questioned (LeMenestrel et al., 2002) - Negative evaluations (lower corporate credibility) (García, 2011)
  5. 5. Are energy companies perceived as greenwashing when communicating a CSR motive for investment in an environmental technology? Communicated Motive Perceived Corporate Greenwashing
  6. 6. Experiments 1. Three experiments University Leiden 2. 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
  7. 7. 5,17 3,43 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Perceived Corporate Greenwashing Results: Perceived greenwashing 4,96 3,65 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Perceived Corporate Greenwashing 5,50 3,56 5,79 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Perceived Corporate Greenwashing CSR motive Economic motive Baseline (no motive) Exp.1 Exp. 2 Exp.3 F(2,54) = 15.52, p < .001, η2 = .37 F(1,44) = 11.11, p = .002, η2 = .20 F(1,52) = 27.54, p < .001, η2 = .35
  8. 8. Why are energy companies perceived as greenwashing? - Firm-serving motives expected (Spangler & Pompper, 2011; Terwel et al., 2009) - Inconsistency > suspicion of strategic behavior (public relations) - Suspicion of strategic behavior > feelings of insincerity (Campbell & Kirmani, 2000; Terwel et al., 2009) Communicated Motive Suspicion of Strategic Behavior Perceived Corporate Greenwashing
  9. 9. Results: Suspicion of Strategic Behavior 5,54 4,26 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Suspicion of Strategic Behavior Environmental motive Economic motive F(1,44) = 13.81, p = .001, η2 = .24 Exp. 2 CSR motive Economic motive 5,87 4,61 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 Suspicion of Strategic Behavior Environmental motive Economic motive F(1,52) = 15.32, p < .001, η2 = .23 Exp. 3
  10. 10. Results (Mediation Model) Communicated Motive Suspicion of Strategic Behavior β = .59** / β = .38* ** p < .001 * p < .01 Sobel z = 2.70, p = .007Perceived Corporate Greenwashing β = .48** β = .44** Communicated Motive Suspicion of Strategic Behavior β = .45* / β = .24ns Sobel z = 2.28, p = .022Perceived Corporate Greenwashing β = .49* β = .42* Exp. 2 Exp. 3
  11. 11. Conclusions People perceive an energy company as greenwashing as soon as they hear that it invests in an environmental technology Communication 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.
  12. 12. - 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’. Conclusion
  13. 13. 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? Discussion
  14. 14. Thank you for your attention. Questions? Gerdien de Vries vriesgde@fsw.leidenuniv.nl This researchis part ofCATO-2, theDutch national researchprogram on CO2capture and storage. CATO-2 is financially supported by theDutch governmentand theCATO-2 consortium parties.

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