The marketing success of green products has spawned the phenomenon of greenwashing, but studies on the effects of greenwashing on consumers are still limited. Using a 4 × 2 randomized experimental design, this study examines such effects by determining whether consumers respond differently to greenwashing, silent brown, vocal green, and silent green organizations selling hedonic products (perfume) or utilitarian products (detergent). The results show that consumers recognized the green claims in the greenwashing condition, which led to an environmental performance impression in between green and brown organizations but also to more negative judgments about the integrity of communication. Regarding purchase interest, greenwashing organizations performed similarly as silent brown organizations, with significantly lower scores than those of vocal green and silent green organizations. No significant effects of product type and no interaction effects were found. Overall, greenwashing has only limited benefits (perceived environmental performance), poses a major threat (perceived integrity), and has no true competitive advantage (purchase interest).
- corporate social responsibility (CSR)
- environmental communication
- green marketing