Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 140, Issue 3, pp 523–536 | Cite as

A Path Analysis of Greenwashing in a Trust Crisis Among Chinese Energy Companies: The Role of Brand Legitimacy and Brand Loyalty



For many energy companies in China, green brand strategy is becoming an important approach to enhance competitive advantage. However, greenwashing behaviors result in a crisis of trust. Existing research focuses on green marketing, but is silent on the institutional view of the trust crisis resulting from greenwashing by energy brands. Thus, this study takes a decoupling perspective from institutional theory and considers legitimacy, energy policy management, and green brand theories to shed light on the path from the decoupling of an energy brand from green promise (DEBG) to green energy brand trust (GEBT) and the role of brand legitimacy and brand loyalty. It then analyzes survey data to conclude that DEBG not only has a direct negative effect on GEBT but also has an indirect influence through the vital mediating role of green energy brand legitimacy. Moreover, brand loyalty is a moderating factor and can alleviate the energy brand trust crisis. These findings not only can enrich the theories of energy brand management and green marketing but also offer important implications for energy policy management.


Greenwashing Energy brands Decoupling Legitimacy Brand loyalty Brand trust 



The authors gratefully acknowledge financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant nos. 71002072 and 71272063, from the Key Project and Youth Project of Humanities and Social Science of The Ministry of Education Grant no. 14JZD017 and 12YJC630187, from the Hubei Key Research Center for Humanities and Social Sciences Grant no. CJHIXM201407.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rui Guo
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
  • Lan Tao
    • 1
  • Caroline Bingxin Li
    • 4
  • Tao Wang
    • 5
  1. 1.School of Economics and ManagementChina University of GeosciencesWuhanChina
  2. 2.Center for Digital Business and Intelligent Management, DBIMChina University of GeosciencesWuhanChina
  3. 3.Center for Jewelry Heritage and InnovationChina University of GeosciencesWuhanChina
  4. 4.Daniels College of BusinessUniversity of DenverDenverUSA
  5. 5.Economics and Management SchoolWuhan UniversityWuhanChina

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