Advertisement

Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 125, Issue 4, pp 693–707 | Cite as

Perceived Greenwashing: The Interactive Effects of Green Advertising and Corporate Environmental Performance on Consumer Reactions

  • Gergely Nyilasy
  • Harsha Gangadharbatla
  • Angela Paladino
Article

Abstract

The current study investigates the effects of green advertising and a corporation’s environmental performance on brand attitudes and purchase intentions. A 3 × 3 (firm’s environmental performance and its advertising efforts as independent variables) experiment using n = 302 subjects was conducted. Results indicate that the negative effect of a firm’s low performance on brand attitudes becomes stronger in the presence of green advertising compared to general corporate advertising and no advertising. Further, when the firm’s environmental performance is high, both green and general corporate advertising result in more unfavorable brand attitudes than no advertising. The study’s counter-intuitive findings are explained by attribution theory.

Keywords

Greenwashing Environmental messages Green messages Attribution theory Corporate advertising Green advertising 

Notes

Conflict of interest

No external organization sponsored this study. Accordingly, there are no potential conflicts of interest to report.

Ethical Standard

This study has been approved by the University of Oregon’s IRB for Human Subjects Research and has been performed in accordance with the ethical standards laid down in the 1964 Declaration of Helsinki. All persons gave their informed consent prior to their inclusion in the study.

References

  1. Alves, I. M. (2009). Green spin everywhere: How greenwashing reveals the limits of the CSR paradigm. Journal of Global Change & Governance, 2(1), 1–26.Google Scholar
  2. Banerjee, S., Gulas, C. S., & Iyer, E. (1995). Shades of green: A multidimensional analysis of environmental advertising. Journal of Advertising, 24(2), 21–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Brammer, S. J., & Pavelin, S. (2006). Corporate reputation and social performance: The importance of fit. Journal of Management Studies, 43(3), 435–455.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Cho, C. H., Guidry, R. P., Hageman, A. M., & Patten, D. M. (2012). Do actions speak louder than words? An empirical investigation of corporate environmental reputation. Accounting, Organizations and Society, 37(1), 14–25.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Colley, R. H. (1961). Defining advertising goals for measured advertising results. New York: Association of National Advertisers.Google Scholar
  6. Cronin, J. J., Jr., Smith, J., Gleim, M., Ramirez, E., & Martinez, J. (2011). Green marketing strategies: An examination of stakeholders and the opportunities they present. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 39(1), 158–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Dahlstrom, R. (2010). Green marketing management. Mason, OH: South-Western.Google Scholar
  8. Davis, J. J. (1992). Ethics and environmental marketing. Journal of Business Ethics, 11(2), 81–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Davis, J. J. (1993). Strategies for environmental advertising. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 10(2), 19–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Davis, J. J. (1994). Good ethics is good for business: Ethical attributions and response to environmental advertising. Journal of Business Ethics, 13(11), 873–885.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Delmas, M., & Blass, V. D. (2010). Measuring corporate environmental performance: The trade-offs of sustainability ratings. Business Strategy & the Environment, 19(4), 245–260.Google Scholar
  12. Delmas, M. A., & Burbano, V. C. (2011). The drivers of greenwashing. California Management Review, 54(1), 64–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Easterling, D., Kenworthy, A., & Nemzoff, R. (1996). The greening of advertising: A twenty-five year look at environmental advertising. Journal of Marketing Theory & Practice, 4(1), 20–33.Google Scholar
  14. Ellen, P. S., Webb, D. J., & Mohr, L. A. (2006). Building corporate associations: Consumer attributions for corporate socially responsible programs. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 34(2), 147–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Folkes, V. S. (1988). Recent attribution research in consumer behavior: A review and new directions. Journal of Consumer Research, 14(4), 548–565.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Folkes, V. S., & Kamins, M. A. (1999). Effects of information about firms’ ethical and unethical actions on consumers’ attitudes. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 8(3), 243–259.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Forbes (2012, February). BP goes for public relations makeover to get beyond Gulf spill. Forbes. Retrieved March 29, 2012, from http://www.forbes.com/sites/greatspeculations/2012/02/07/bp-goes-for-public-relations-makeover-to-get-beyond-gulf-spill/?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter.
  18. Forehand, M. R., & Grier, S. (2003). When is honesty the best policy? The effect of stated company intent on consumer skepticism. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 13(3), 349–356.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Friestad, M., & Wright, P. (1994). The persuasion knowledge model: How people cope with persuasion attempts. Journal of Consumer Research, 21(1), 1–31.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Furlow, N. E. (2010). Greenwashing in the new millennium. Journal of Applied Business and Economics, 10(6), 22–25.Google Scholar
  21. Geue, M., & Plewa, C. (2010). Cause sponsorship: A study on congruence, attribution and corporate social responsibility. Journal of Sponsorship, 3(3), 228–241.Google Scholar
  22. GfK. (2010). American consumers lead the world in environmental skepticism. Retrieved May 1, 2013, from http://www.gfkamerica.com/newsroom/press_releases/single_sites/006588/index.en.html.
  23. Gillespie, E. (2008). Stemming the tide of ‘greenwash’. Consumer Policy Review, 18(3), 79–83.Google Scholar
  24. Greer, J., & Bruno, K. (1996). Greenwash: The reality behind corporate environmentalism. New York: Apex Press.Google Scholar
  25. Groza, M., Pronschinske, M., & Walker, M. (2011). Perceived organizational motives and consumer responses to proactive and reactive CSR. Journal of Business Ethics, 102(4), 639–652.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gunningham, N. (2009). Shaping corporate environmental performance: A review. Environmental Policy & Governance, 19(4), 215–231.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Hair, J. F., Black, W. C., Babin, B. J., & Anderson, R. E. (2010). Multivariate data analysis. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  28. Harvey, J. H., & Weary, G. (1984). Current issues in attribution theory and research. Annual Review of Psychology, 35(1), 427–459.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Heider, F. (1944). Social perception and phenomenal causality. Psychological Review, 51(6), 358–374.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Henion, K. E. (1972). The effect of ecologically relevant information on detergent sales. Journal of Marketing Research, 9(1), 10–14.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kelley, H. H. (1971). Attribution in social interaction. New York: General Learning Press.Google Scholar
  32. Kelley, H. H., & Michela, J. L. (1980). Attribution theory and research. Annual Review of Psychology, 31(1), 457–501.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Kerton, R. R., & Bodell, R. W. (1995). Quality, choice, and the economics of concealment: The marketing of lemons. Journal of Consumer Affairs, 29(1), 1–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Klein, J., & Dawar, N. (2004). Corporate social responsibility and consumers’ attributions and brand evaluations in a product-harm crisis. International Journal of Research in Marketing, 21(3), 203–217.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Klein, B., & Leffler, K. B. (1981). The role of market forces in assuring contractual performance. Journal of Political Economy, 89(4), 615–641.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Kotler, P. (2011). Reinventing marketing to manage the environmental imperative. Journal of Marketing, 75(4), 132–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lee, M. P., & Lounsbury, M. (2011). Domesticating radical rant and rage: An exploration of the consequences of environmental shareholder resolutions on corporate environmental performance. Business & Society, 50(1), 155–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Leonidou, C. N., & Leonidou, L. C. (2011). Research into environmental marketing/management: A bibliographic analysis. European Journal of Marketing, 45(1/2), 68–103.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Martin, D., & Schouten, J. (2012). Sustainable marketing. Boston: Prentice Hall.Google Scholar
  40. Mitchell, A. A., & Olson, J. C. (1981). Are product attribute beliefs the only mediator of advertising effects on brand attitude? Journal of Marketing Research, 18(3), 318–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mizerski, R. W., Golden, L. L., & Kernan, J. B. (1979). The attribution process in consumer decision making. Journal of Consumer Research, 6(2), 123–140.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Mobley, A. S., Painter, T. S., Untch, E. M., & Unnava, H. R. (1995). Consumer evaluation of recycled products. Psychology & Marketing, 12(3), 165–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Montoro-Rios, F. J., Luque-Martinez, T., & Rodriguez-Molina, M.-A. (2008). How green should you be: Can environmental associations enhance brand performance? Journal of Advertising Research, 48(4), 547–563.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Muehling, D. D., & Laczniak, R. N. (1988). Advertising’s immediate and delayed influence on brand attitudes: Considerations across message-involvement levels. Journal of Advertising, 17(4), 23–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Newell, S. J., Goldsmith, R. E., & Banzhaf, E. J. (1998). The effect of misleading environmental claims on consumer perceptions of advertisements. Journal of Marketing Theory & Practice, 6(2), 48–60.Google Scholar
  46. Öberseder, M., Schlegelmilch, B., & Gruber, V. (2011). ‘Why don’t consumers care about CSR?’: A qualitative study exploring the role of CSR in consumption decisions. Journal of Business Ethics, 104(4), 449–460.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Oliver, R. L. (1993). Cognitive, affective, and attribute bases of the satisfaction response. Journal of Consumer Research, 20(3), 418–430.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Paladino, A., & Pandit, A. P. (2012). Competing on service and branding in the renewable electricity sector. Energy Policy, 45, 378–388.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Parguel, B., Benoît-Moreau, F., & Larceneux, F. (2011). How sustainability ratings might deter ‘greenwashing’: A closer look at ethical corporate communication. Journal of Business Ethics, 102(1), 15–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Petty, R. E., & Cacioppo, J. T. (1986). Communication and persuasion: Central and peripheral routes to attitude change. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Polonsky, M. J. (1995). A stakeholder theory approach to designing environmental marketing strategy. Journal of Business & Industrial Marketing, 10(3), 29–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Polonsky, M. J. (2011). Transformative green marketing: Impediments and opportunities. Journal of Business Research, 64(12), 1311–1319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Porter, M. E., & Kramer, M. R. (2006). Strategy & society: The link between competitive advantage and corporate social responsibility. Harvard Business Review, 84(12), 78–92.Google Scholar
  54. Raju, S., & Rajagopal, P. (2008). Responding to ethical and competence failures. Advances in Consumer Research, 35, 855–856.Google Scholar
  55. Ramus, C. A., & Montiel, I. (2005). When are corporate environmental policies a form of greenwashing? Business & Society, 44(4), 377–414.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Salo, J. (2008). Corporate governance and environmental performance: Industry and country effects. Competition and Change, 12(4), 328–354.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schuhwerk, M. E., & Lefkoff-Hagius, R. (1995). Green or non-green? Does type of appeal matter when advertising a green product? Journal of Advertising, 24(2), 45–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Singh, J., Salmones Sanchez, M. d. M. G., & Bosque, I. R. (2008). Understanding corporate social responsibility and product perceptions in consumer markets: A cross-cultural evaluation. Journal of Business Ethics, 80(3), 597–611.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Swaen, V., & Vanhamme, J. (2004). See how ‘good’ we are: The dangers of using corporate social activities in communication campaigns. Advances in Consumer Research, 31, 302–303.Google Scholar
  60. TerraChoice. (2010). The sins of greenwashing: Home and family edition 2010: A report on environmental claims made in the North American consumer market. Retrieved December 18, 2011, from http://sinsofgreenwashing.org/?dl_id=102.
  61. Vanhamme, J., & Grobben, B. (2009). “Too good to be true!”. The effectiveness of CSR history in countering negative publicity. Journal of Business Ethics, 85(Supplement 2), 273–283.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Vlachos, P. A., Tsamakos, A., Vrechopoulos, A. P., & Avramidis, P. K. (2009). Corporate social responsibility: Attributions, loyalty, and the mediating role of trust. Journal of the Academy of Marketing Science, 37(2), 170–180.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Walker, M., Heere, B., Parent, M., & Drane, D. (2010). Social responsibility and the Olympic games: The mediating role of consumer attributions. Journal of Business Ethics, 95(4), 659–680.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Webb, D. J., & Mohr, L. A. (1998). A typology of consumer responses to cause-related marketing: From skeptics to socially concerned. Journal of Public Policy & Marketing, 17(2), 226–238.Google Scholar
  65. Weiner, B. (1986). An attributional theory of motivation and emotion. New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Weiner, B. (2000). Attributional thoughts about consumer behavior. Journal of Consumer Research, 27(3), 382–387.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Xie, S., & Hayase, K. (2007). Corporate environmental performance evaluation: A measurement model and a new concept. Business Strategy & the Environment, 16(2), 148–168.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Yoon, Y., Gürhan-Canli, Z., & Schwarz, N. (2006). The effect of corporate social responsibility (CSR) activities on companies with bad reputations. Journal of Consumer Psychology, 16(4), 377–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Zinkhan, G. M., & Carlson, L. (1995). Green advertising and the reluctant consumer. Journal of Advertising, 24(2), 1–6.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gergely Nyilasy
    • 1
  • Harsha Gangadharbatla
    • 2
  • Angela Paladino
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Management and MarketingThe University of MelbourneMelbourneAustralia
  2. 2.School of Journalism and CommunicationUniversity of OregonEugeneUSA

Personalised recommendations