New Tool Detects Corporate “Greenwashing” on Social Media
New research has developed a linguistic-based tool to detect “greenwashing” – the growing practice of companies using social media to communicate misleading or falsely exaggerated claims about their environmental performance.
The findings are contained in an article published recently in the journal Sustainability. The article, titled “Corporate Communication as ‘Fake News’: Firms’ Greenwashing on Twitter”, was co-authored by Divinus Oppong-Tawiah, Assistant Professor of Operations Management & Information Systems at the Schulich School of Business, together with Jane Webster, Professor Emeritus and E. Marie Shantz Chair of Digital Technology at the Smith School of Business, Queen’s University.
The researchers examined Twitter messages posted by companies in two industries with significant environmental footprints, namely, the oil and gas and automotive industries. Based on their findings, the researchers developed a new automatic deviation-based linguistic tool that can detect organizational greenwashing.
The researchers also showed that greenwashing is significantly associated with financial market performance because of its potential to erode shareholder value and damage the firm’s long-term financial health.
“Fake news on social media has engulfed the world of politics in recent years and is now posing the same threat in other areas, such as corporate social responsibility communications,” says Oppong-Tawiah. “Our research work addresses an urgent need to identify greenwashing and measure its effects.”