Defining Greenwashing

48 Pages Posted: 16 May 2022 Last revised: 26 Dec 2023

See all articles by Ariadna Dumitrescu

Ariadna Dumitrescu

ESADE Business School

Javier Gil-Bazo

Universitat Pompeu Fabra; UPF Barcelona School of Management; Barcelona School of Economics

Feng Zhou

Toulouse Business School

Date Written: May 2, 2022


We propose a definition of greenwashing in asset management that combines ESG self-labels, ESG ratings, and funds' voting support for ESG proposals. Using this definition, we estimate that 29% of ESG funds in the US engaged in greenwashing during the 2016-2022 period. This proportion has decreased in more recent periods. Greenwashers are more likely to underperform, tend to belong to larger and younger fund families, and are less likely to be offered by signatories of the United Nations Principles for Responsible Investment. Investors, especially within the institutional segment of the market, appear to be able to discern true-ESG funds.

Keywords: Greenwashing; ESG labels; ESG ratings; ESG voting; Names rule; UNPRI

JEL Classification: G23, G11, Q01

Suggested Citation

Dumitrescu, Ariadna and Gil-Bazo, Javier and Zhou, Feng, Defining Greenwashing (May 2, 2022). Available at SSRN: or

Ariadna Dumitrescu

ESADE Business School ( email )

Av. Pedralbes 60-62
Barcelona, 08034

Javier Gil-Bazo (Contact Author)

Universitat Pompeu Fabra ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, 08005

UPF Barcelona School of Management ( email )

Carrer de Balmes, 132, 134
Barcelona, 08008

Barcelona School of Economics ( email )

Ramon Trias Fargas, 25-27
Barcelona, Barcelona 08005

Feng Zhou

Toulouse Business School

20, Bd Lascrosses
Toulouse, 31000

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