Good Works, Good Business or Greenwash?
New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Chapter 6: Regulating Information About Business Environmentalism
Business environmental programs are diverse; they are undertaken for a varied group of reasons with an equally diverse group of results. Among the reasons for adopting them is the hope of companies to appeal to green consumers, green investors, and green civil society more generally. While the effort may be to appeal to parties to encourage specific transactions, such as particular consumer purchases or specific investment decisions, the appeal is often for equally important but less transaction-specific reasons. Beyond seeking particular sales to consumers and investors, companies and industry groups want to be seen as responsible, productive and contributing members of a greener and more sustainable society. Even a casual glance at the pervasive contemporary corporate image advertising shows that many companies are most concerned to present a green corporate image, one which goes beyond promoting specific products, specific services, or specific investments.1 Of course, the positive image is an important contributor to a company’s ability to appeal to consumers and investors, but its importance reaches further. Thus, many thoughtful business leaders refer to their ‘social license to operate’ and note that the license is based on performance and perceptions including products and financial returns, that ultimately reflect a broad commitment to responsible behavior throughout the entire organization.2 Voluntary environmental efforts are an important part of this corporate effort. Should we regulate the voluntary environmental programs that are part of this image-building effort? One major concern is that such regulation may well discourage company participation in the programs altogether, or...
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