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
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
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
Are energy companies perceived as greenwashing
when communicating a CSR motive for investment in
an environmental technology?
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).
Results (Mediation Model)
β = .59** / β = .38*
** p < .001
* p < .01
Sobel z = 2.70, p = .007Perceived
β = .48** β = .44**
β = .45* / β = .24ns
Sobel z = 2.28, p = .022Perceived
β = .49* β = .42*
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
- 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’.
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.
Gerdien de Vries
This researchis part ofCATO-2, theDutch national
researchprogram on CO2capture and storage.
CATO-2 is financially supported by theDutch
governmentand theCATO-2 consortium parties.