Special Issue: Greenwashing in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)

GCSR 2023

Business, Economics & Management (General)

Background and Motivation
The world today is facing major grand challenges such as global warming, environmental pollution, and labor rights violations. Governments and the public around the world are paying closer attention to these issues and calling on companies to actively engage in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), while shifting from the pursuit of pure economic interests to tackling broader social and environmental issues (Carroll & Shabana, 2010; Pérez et al., 2019). Especially the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) outbreak has not only brought threats to the lives and health of people all over the world, but also engendered great uncertainty in relation to the development of the global economy. As the epidemic continues to spread globally, the economic development of some economies has stagnated or even regressed, which has aggravated existing grand challenges (Jamali et al., 2021). In this context, the public has higher expectations than ever for companies to fulfill their social responsibilities (He & Harris, 2020). Many companies have also actively contributed to the fight against the epidemic, fulfilling their CSR mandate through charitable donations, the establishment of anti￾epidemic funds, and participation in the production of anti-epidemic supplies. But there are real concerns and questions about the willingness of companies to continue to engage in CSR despite the economic hardships and recessions most countries are now facing, and the extent to which they will resist (or not) the temptation for “greenwashing”to save face and maintain a positive public image.
In the field of CSR research, the issue of greenwashing has received increasing
attention. As an abnormal and faking social responsibility behavior (Gatti et al., 2019), greenwashing means the firm exhibits excessive whitewashing in environmental
protection publicity, charitable donations, employee welfare and other social
responsibilities and exaggerates or falsely discloses deceiving information pertaining
to CSR implementation (Li et al., 2015). From the perspective of subjective initiative
or conscious activities of firms, the main reason for greenwashing behaviors is that the
benefits brought by publicizing CSR can lead to changes in consumer perceptions and
improved public image and competitive positioning (Shea & Hawn, 2019; Chen & Chang, 2013). According to the view of corporate citizenship theory (Moon et al., 2005),
corporate citizenship refers to a firm’s responsibilities toward society, the “social person” attributes of moral and ethical firms require them to be responsible for social welfare and development and to establish a responsible image as corporate citizens. However, due to limited resources and intensifying pressures from stakeholders and society, firms may share or publicize CSR information that may show inconsistencies between reality and presumed behavior (Scheidler et al., 2019), which results in turn in perceptions of greenwashing and hypocrisy (Jauernig et al., 2021). To a certain extent, greenwashing behavior is regarded as a kind of negative CSR implementation, that is seemingly conformable, yet disobedient and deceitful in essence.
Furthermore, various scholars conducted exploratory studies on issues such as the
characteristics of firms that engage in greenwashing behavior (Yang et al., 2020), the
market response and economic consequences of CSR greenwashing behavior (Guo et al., 2017), the identification of CSR greenwashing behavior (Siano et al., 2017) and the
governance mechanism of CSR greenwashing behavior (Kim & Lyon, 2015). Important
findings are obtained such as, in terms of enterprise characteristics of greenwashing
behavior, enterprises that have short-term economic performance pressure (Kim et al., 2021), or intend to build a positive image to deal with internal and external pressure,
are more likely to engage in greenwashing behavior (Quan et al., 2018); With respect
to the economic consequences of greenwashing behavior, the continued existence of
CSR greenwashing behavior can disrupt market order, reduce public trust and also
affect firm’s own development (Fassin & Buelens, 2011); Concerning the identification
of greenwashing behavior, Terra Choice (2009) proposed seven forms of greenwashing
behavior (The Seven Sins of Greenwashing) which has since been regarded as the
standard for identifying CSR greenwashing behavior (de Freitas Netto et al., 2020);
Regarding the governance mechanism of greenwashing behavior, social media, intra￾firm CSR management mechanism and the rating mechanism by third-parties can effectively govern CSR greenwashing behavior (Lyon & Maxwell, 2011; Lyon & Montgomery, 2013, 2015). Greenwashing behavior can also show a strong effect of misleading information on stakeholders (Uyar et al., 2020), affecting their decision￾making results and efficiency, which can make it difficult for stakeholders to judge whether the CSR behavior is “truly green” or involves greenwashing (Ruiz-Blanco et al., 2022). Furthermore, the existence of the stigma of greenwashing (Kawamura and Kusumi, 2020) can make CSR, which is originally a charitable and noble deed, to be a thankless and irrelevant endeavor.
It is important at this point to gain a better understanding of greenwashing and
what it entails and to shed light on the theoretical underpinnings for this widespread
phenomenon, as well as related similar concepts such as corporate hypocrisy (Wagner
et al., 2020), corporate pseudo-social responsibility (Zhao et al., 2020), and CSR
decoupling (Jamali & Karam, 2018). In fact, existing theoretical insights have been
limited, hence creating the need for new theoretical and practical explorations. For
example, the understanding of greenwashing behavior is still not comprehensive enough, the factors influencing the formation of greenwashing and hypocrisy in the implementation process of CSR are not thoroughly explored, the identification
evaluation system of “true green” vs greenwashing is not complete enough, the
exploration of the governance mechanisms of greenwashing and hypocrisy behaviors in implementing CSR is not systematic enough, and it is difficult to obtain valid empirical data to fully identify greenwashing behavior which is somewhat unobservable and covert. All the above can restrict the development of new theoretical and empirical insights pertaining to greenwashing. Therefore, in the context of the COVID-19 epidemic, the rapid development of CSR practices in an uncertain environment calls for the simultaneous advancement of theoretical and practical research to buffer against the potential future escalation of greenwashing and decoupling behaviors in the context of CSR.
With this in mind, this Special Issue expects to lead the way in terms of discussions
and research on the related issues of “Greenwashing in Corporate Social Responsibility” both at theoretical and applied levels, aiming to gather high quality interdisciplinary contributions, including conceptual and empirical papers or methodological approaches, from scholars who are actively working in this broad research area.Research Topics In recent years, greenwashing has become an emerging and hot topic in the field of corporate social responsibility area. However, the discussion of greenwashing in academic and industrial circles is still in its infancy, and there is still a lack of related influential academic achievements. The purpose of this Special Issue is to deepen the understanding of greenwashing behavior in CSR within an uncertain environment, and to find strategies to regulate and manage greenwashing and hypocrisy in implementing CSR. We call for contributions that are solid, theoretically informed, and that can offer practical insights into the greenwashing phenomenon from multiple business sub￾disciplines. We also welcome and encourage research that capitalizes on a multi￾disciplinary lens or perspective. Research questions and topics explored by potential contributions to this Special Issue could include, but are not limited to, the following
1. The nature of greenwashing behavior in CSR.
(1) The performance dimensions of greenwashing behavior in CSR, and the differences and connections between these different dimensions. (2) Identification, measurement and assessment of greenwashing behavior in CSR. What are the criteria for identifying greenwashing behavior in CSR? How to measure and assess the greenwashing behavior in CSR based on different perspectives (such as evaluation oriented-, scoring oriented- or report oriented -views)? (3) Corporate characteristics of greenwashing behavior in CSR, under which types the firms are more prone to have greenwashing behavior in CSR, and are there certain homogeneous characteristics of these corporations? (4) CSR decoupling. What is the relationship between CSR decoupling and greenwashing behavior? What are the differences and links? (5)Corporate pseudo-social responsibility. What are the differences and links betweencorporate pseudo-social responsibility and greenwashing behavior? How to regulate the occurrence of corporate pseudo-social responsibility?
2. The formation and evolutionary mechanism of greenwashing behavior in CSR.
What are the internal and external factors that affect the formation and evolution
of greenwashing behavior in CSR? Namely, the driving factors, occurrence, pathways
and the evolutionary models of greenwashing behavior in CSR.
3. The consequences of greenwashing behavior in CSR.
(1) Individual level: The effect on employee’s behavior etc., (2) corporate level:
The effect on firm reputation and performance etc., (3) society level: The effect on
public attitudes and expectations etc.
4. Governance mechanism of greenwashing behavior in CSR.
(1) The management mechanism, supervision mechanism and governance effect of greenwashing behavior in CSR from the view of participants. (2) Stigma management of greenwashing behavior in CSR. The impacts and consequences of being stigmatized for firms involved or not involved in greenwashing behavior, and the management strategy of reducing/removing stigmatization for corporations and stakeholders.
Submission Instructions
Questions related to the Special Issue should be addressed to the guest editors Prof. dr. Jintao Lu (lut2002@163.com; lujintao@tyust.edu.cn) or Prof. dr. Dima Jamali
Submitted papers must adhere to the editorial style of Business Ethics, the Environment
and Responsibility which can be found at: Author Guidelines. All papers must be submitted through the BEER on-line submission system (https://wiley.atyponrex.com/journal/BEER) also indicating that this is a submission to
the Special Issue: Greenwashing in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). All
submissions will be double blind reviewed and the review process will run as efficiently
and professionally as conceivable. The submissions should not contain any indication of
authorship and should be submitted separately from the title page with full author
information for contact. Regarding the citation and reference system, please check
https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/page/journal/26946424/homepage/forauthors.html, any
recently paper published in Business Ethics, the Environment and Responsibility can be
taken as an example.
Deadline for Submissions: 31 May 2023