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Greenwashing Revisited: In Search for a Typology and Accusation-based Definition Incorporating Legitimacy Strategies

Additional information

Authors
Type
Journal Article
Year
2017
Language
English
Abstract
Is greenwashing a concept describing companies using misleading communication or is it coconstructed in the eye of the beholder? By discussing the literature, we find that existing definitions of greenwashing overemphasize the strategic intention to mislead and do not incorporate unjust allegations. Then, by combining signaling theory with legitimacy theory, we frame the communication process of the greenwashing accusation and the emergence of a negative narrative caused by the accusation and its effect on legitimacy. Hence, in this paper we argue that greenwashing epistemologically is constituted in the eye of the beholder, depending on an external accusation. Following this view, the greenwashing accusation is understood as a distortion factor altering the signal reliability of green messages. Based on our conceptual analysis, we provide a conceptual framework introducing a new typology of case-based greenwashing (greenwashing, false greenwashing, potential greenwashing and no greenwashing) and the effects of these types on corporate legitimacy. Finally, we propose a revised definition of greenwashing as co-creation of an external accusation toward an organization with regard to presenting a misleading green message. Copyright © 2015 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment
Journal
Business Strategy and the Environment
Volume
26
Number
2
Month
February
Start page number
239
End page number
252