As mentioned by Windsor (2013) CSR or the corporate social responsibility can be identified as the voluntary actions that a commercial organization can take for behaving ethically, in compliance with the legal requirements to address both its own competitive interests and the interest of the wider society. However, critics have often argued that CSR is mere the process of green washing and typically company oriented. This essay will argue against this statement by discussing how the companies are using the ethical business strategy in an unethical way and limiting the range of CSR within the boundaries of green washing, which is completely unacceptable.
As mentioned by Bowen and Aragon-Correa (2014) “Green-washing is a term that describes when a corporate entity makes claims or actions that overshadow the potentially damaging work it is actually doing.” Now, the typical characteristics of CSR help a company in green washing its brand image. As mentioned by Windsor (2013) a number of companies start their initiatives of CSR, mainly the environmental responsibilities after any environmental mishap. A number of oil companies have used this strategy of conducting environmental protection campaign after oil spill.
On the other hand, as described by Bowen and Aragon-Correa (2014) “green-washing is the act of deceiving the consumers about the environmental exercise of a company or the ecological impacts of the company offerings.” A number of companies have used marketing gimmicks to portray an environment friendly image, which had no physical outcome. As mentioned by Reyes (2013) General Motors has changed its logo from blue to green to represent itself as an environment friendly company, whereas it has only the “Chevrolet Volt” product line of electric cars which is also not entirely environment friendly. All these activities have directed the critics to claim CSR as a mere extension of green washing.
However, CSR activities are not fundamentally originated with the purpose of green washing the brand image. As discussed by Windsor (2013) the major perspective of corporate social responsibility was returning the gratitude of the society or the environment which has contributed to the prosperity of the business operations. As opined by Bowen and Aragon-Correa (2014) the principals of CSR involves conforming to the public responsibility and the social responsibility of a compny which includes operating business in accordance to the legal frameworks and societal norms. As discussed by Carroll and Shabana (2010) this socially oriented nature of CSR provides a long-term self interest to the company. CSR has largely originated with the objective of strengthening legitimacy and reputation of a company. Here, the fraudulent companies use the CSR for green washing as it provides them legitimacy in front of the society. It is about “perception management” which is not credible at all. On the other hand, as described by Dzafic and Petersson (2016) the true nature of CSR has the honest agenda of behaving in an ethical and environment friendly manner. When the onset of the CSR is out of the agenda of manipulating the customers’ perception, then only it can be identified as green-washing.
On the other hand, the essence of CSR is “pro-acting is better than reacting” (Carroll and Shabana 2010). By ensuring social norms, legal boundaries and environmental regulations the companies become able to protect its brand name, reduce the risk of project failure and ensure minimum organizational cost. Moreover, the society oriented approach of a business strategy uplifts the living standard of a society. Thus CSR has a win-win approach. However, the green wash strategy of CSR promotes a reaction in place of the pro-active approach.
As discussed by Windsor (2013) CSR provides customer satisfaction and a wide range of competitive advantage. However, in the cases of green washing, the companies face public criticism. As mentioned by Vollero et al. (2016) “green washing” can have significant negative impact upon the consumer and the confidence of the investors and thus making the stakeholders hesitant to reward the organization for its performance. On the other hand, as mentioned by Carroll and Shabana (2010) a successful CSR strategy provides increased credibility to a company and it collects faith of the stakeholders to the organization. Thus, it can be stated that CSR is not about green washing. It promotes ethical business operation whereas green washing is typically unethical.
Hence, it can be concluded that corporate social responsibility is much more than mere green-washing. The fundamental characteristics of CSR provide the advantage of promoting the brand name and creating a positive public image, which helps the firms for green-washing. However, the major perspective of CSR doesn’t include this perception management, which is typically unethical. Hence, the claim that CSR is little more than green washing is inappropriate. The fraudulent companies use this unethical strategy (green washing) with the help of CSR which typically involves a range of ethical business operation.
Bowen, F. and Aragon-Correa, J.A., 2014. Greenwashing in corporate environmentalism research and practice: The importance of what we say and do.
Carroll, A. and Shabana, K. (2010). The Business Case for Corporate Social Responsibility: A Review of Concepts, Research and Practice. International Journal of Management Reviews, 12(1), pp.85-105.
Dzafic, J. and Petersson, A., 2016. Greenwashing in CSR reports-A case study of two entities.
Reyes, L.C., 2013. Ford and General Motors Corporate Sustainability Reports: A Critical Discourse Analysis.
Vollero, A., Palazzo, M., Siano, A. and Elving, W.J., 2016. Avoiding the greenwashing trap: between CSR communication and stakeholder engagement. International Journal of Innovation and Sustainable Development, 10(2), pp.120-140.
Windsor, D., 2013, October. Authenticity, Greenwashing, and Institutionalization of CSR Best Practices. In Proceedings of the International Association for Business and Society (Vol. 24, pp. 70-80).