9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN12 Environment and Society

2009-09-05 13:30:00 2009-09-05 15:00:00 Saturday, 5 September 13:30 - 15:00 Corporate Governance Building I, Auditório 4

Greenwashing - delusive environmental publicity in times of climate change. A comparative analysis of a frequent but often neglected phenomenon in Germany, Russia and Spain

Greenwashing (or greenwash), a term that was created by the environmentalist movement in the US around 1990, describes the delusive marketing strategies of some companies that aim to improve the image of their environmental friendliness and sustainability. In recent years, greenwashing has become a frequently used term and an analytical tool for social and communication sciences, especially in the US, the UK and Germany. However, not only in these countries, the phenomenon has a great relevance. Issues like climate change and environmental protection in the media all over the world, particularly after incidents like the hurricane Kathrina in 2005, after the success of Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" and the release of the 4th IPCC report in 2007, attract the media and public interest all over the world.
In many countries, including Spain and Russia, despite the presence of greenwashing campaigns in the publicity, there has been only little academic research about the phenomenon. Sociological research on greenwashing, however, promises interesting information on the relation between the consumer's value change and the corporate reaction.
The aim of this study is to offer an introduction to greenwashing from a sociological perspective, based on the information provided by recent investigations. Firstly it includes a brief history of the phenomenon, as well as an analysis of the motivation of the agents who make use of greenwashing, the different tools applied in delusive environmental media campaigns, and the reaction of the society (environmentalist groups, authorities and consumers).
Secondly, the study includes a quantitative and qualitative comparative analysis of the situation of greenwashing in three European countries: Germany, Russia and Spain. Each of these countries is characterized by a very different degree of environmental consciousness and consumer mobilization, as a consequence, the use of and the reaction on greenwashing campaigns differ considerably.
Finally, the study explains the relevance of sociological analyses of greenwashing and proposes further investigation lines on the phenomenon, oriented on the future evolution of the relation between public consciousness on climate change and the companies' reactions.