CSR and Greenwashing: A Matter of Perception in the Search of Legitimacy

Accounting, Accountability and Society, Forthcoming

16 Pages Posted: 15 Dec 2020

See all articles by Federica Balluchi

Federica Balluchi

Parma University, Department of Economics and Management

Arianna Lazzini

Università degli studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia (UNIMORE)

Riccardo Torelli

Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Department of Economic and Social Sciences

Date Written: April 1, 2020

Abstract

In recent decades, corporate communication has undergone significant changes in terms of channel, content and receivers. To be accountable, companies are called upon to satisfy a plurality of stakeholders who are increasingly interested in non-financial information. In addition, the type and scope of information can significantly influence the competitive advantage of the company and especially, its credibility and reputation. Today, companies are required to engage in corporate social responsibility (CSR) initiatives to give response to the call for action from their stakeholders and society. However, some companies engage in CSR initiatives with the aim of only achieving or increasing their level of legitimacy. When companies offer misleading communication and then try to influence the perceptions of their stakeholders, they incur the phenomenon known in literature as “greenwashing”. Thus, the aim of this work is to analyse the phenomenon of greenwashing, tracing its evolution in the extant literature. Greenwashing will then be analysed through the lens of the legitimacy theory and starting from Habermas’s communication theory to define and broaden the relationships between the concepts of disclosure, credibility, legitimacy, perception and greenwashing.

Keywords: Corporate social responsibility, Disclosure, Greenwashing, Legitimacy theory, Habermas’s communication theory, Communication credibility, Perception

JEL Classification: M14

Suggested Citation

Balluchi, Federica and Lazzini, Arianna and Torelli, Riccardo, CSR and Greenwashing: A Matter of Perception in the Search of Legitimacy (April 1, 2020). Accounting, Accountability and Society, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3721199 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3721199

Federica Balluchi

Parma University, Department of Economics and Management ( email )

Via J.F. Kennedy, 6
Parma, 43125
Italy

Arianna Lazzini

Università degli studi di Modena e Reggio Emilia (UNIMORE) ( email )

Viale A. Allegri 9
Modena, Modena 42121
Italy

Riccardo Torelli (Contact Author)

Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore, Department of Economic and Social Sciences ( email )

Via Emilia Parmense 84
Piacenza, Piacenza 29122
Italy

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