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Scrutiny, Norms, and Selective Disclosure: A Global Study of Greenwashing

Author

Listed:
  • Christopher Marquis

    () (School of Management, Cornell University)

  • Michael W. Toffel

    () (Harvard Business School, Technology and Operations Management Unit)

  • Yanhua Zhou

    () (Harvard Business School)

Abstract

Under increased pressure to report environmental impacts, some firms selectively disclose relatively benign impacts, creating an impression of transparency while masking their true performance. We identify key company- and country-level factors that limit firms' use of selective disclosure by intensifying scrutiny on them and by diffusing global norms to their headquarters countries. We test our hypotheses using a novel panel dataset of 4,750 public companies across many industries and headquartered in 45 countries during 2004-2007. Results show that firms that are more environmentally damaging, particularly those in countries where they are more exposed to scrutiny and global norms, are less likely to engage in selective disclosure. We discuss contributions to the literature that spans institutional theory and strategic management and to the literature on information disclosure.

Suggested Citation

  • Christopher Marquis & Michael W. Toffel & Yanhua Zhou, 2011. "Scrutiny, Norms, and Selective Disclosure: A Global Study of Greenwashing," Harvard Business School Working Papers 11-115, Harvard Business School, revised Jul 2015.
  • Handle: RePEc:hbs:wpaper:11-115
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    4. Xiaoyang Li & Yue Maggie Zhou, 2016. "Offshoring Pollution While Offshoring Production," Working Papers 16-09, Center for Economic Studies, U.S. Census Bureau.
    5. Samson Iliya Nyahas & John C. Munene & Laura Orobia & Twaha Kigongo Kaawaase, 2017. "Isomorphic influences and voluntary disclosure: The mediating role of organizational culture," Cogent Business & Management, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 4(1), pages 1351144-135, January.

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