Greenwashing as a tool for positive change - INRAE - Institut national de recherche pour l’agriculture, l’alimentation et l’environnement Access content directly
Other Publications Year : 2023

Greenwashing as a tool for positive change

Dejan Glavas
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Gilles Grolleau
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Naoufel Mzoughi


Greenwashing, the action of making false or misleading claims about a company’s environmental practices, can be used by regulators to encourage organisations to adopt environmentally friendly behaviour The claim comes from new research conducted by Gilles Grolleau and Dejan Glavas at Essca School of Management together with Naoufel Mzoughi from INRAE, the French national institute for agricultural, food and environmental research. Based on current literature and publicly available evidence, the new study was published in the Journal of Cleaner Production and identifies four potential mechanisms: namely, raising awareness and acclimatising consumers to greenness as the new norm; using greenwashing to hold companies accountable; inspiring and driving change within the firm; and giving leverage to regulators. “The main tools for regulators in fighting greenwashing are deterrents such as financial penalties and tightening of laws. The mechanisms we have identified offer an additional way for regulators to help companies fix their greenwashing transgressions by moving towards genuine sustainability initiatives”, commented Professor Glavas, co-author of the article. “Greenwashing is wrong, but we argue it can be an opportunity for positive change and not just something to be punished.” Using greenwashing claims to force an organisation to reduce the discrepancy between what it claims and what it actually does enables what the researchers call “the ratchet effect.” This phenomenon takes a negative situation and turns it into a positive opportunity for change. One such example is Krombacher, a German brewery that engaged in an initiative with the World Wildlife Fund in which it promised that for each crate of beer sold, one square metre of rainforest would be protected. The campaign was heavily criticised for greenwashing. Subsequently, the brewery made consistent efforts with its environmental activities to improve its ‘green’ image. This would not have occurred without the initial greenwashing.
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Dates and versions

hal-04207345 , version 1 (14-09-2023)


  • HAL Id : hal-04207345 , version 1


Dejan Glavas, Gilles Grolleau, Naoufel Mzoughi. Greenwashing as a tool for positive change. 2023. ⟨hal-04207345⟩
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