SOPhiA 2022

Salzburgiense Concilium Omnibus Philosophis Analyticis

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Programme - Talk

The Price of Deception: Thinking of Greenwashing in Terms of its Economic Preconditions
(Philosophy of Science, English)

The Price of Deception: Thinking of Greenwashing in Terms of its Economic Preconditions

Most current scientific and philosophical discussion on greenwashing is centered around questions such as whether greenwashing is effective, which methods companies use to greenwash themselves, and how greenwashing can be combated. There is little discussion, however, about economic preconditions of greenwashing which, as I will argue, could shine light on issues that other approaches (Lyon et al. 2011, Lee et al. 2018) do not cover.

I base my discussion on three basic preconditions, all of which need to be fulfilled to make greenwashing favorable for companies. I call the first cheap production viability, which demands that non-green production is cheaper than green production. The second is deception favorability which is fulfilled if creating the impression that one__s production practices being green is cheaper than actually becoming green. Lastly there is greenwashing profitability, which requires that the fines for being discovered to greenwash multiplied by the chance to be discovered amounts to less than the surplus the non-green production yields. If all these conditions are met in a given product-market and one assumes that the survival of companies depends mainly on their monetary gain, greenwashing companies have a competitive advantage.

After explaining and discussing this framework I will argue that thinking about greenwashing in terms of its economic preconditions can suggest new ways to investigate issues concerning it. I will briefly discuss four cases in which this approach could prove fruitful:

1. It can help us to understand why greenwashing is so pervasive whilst questioning the colloquial conception that construes greenwashing as an evil act of greedy individuals.

2. It indicates that we should doubt the market__s ability to adapt to changing consumer interests if consumers merely change their buying patterns.

3. It provides a rough framework for identifying markets susceptible to greenwashing.

4. It suggests means to make greenwashing unattractive for companies.

By shifting the analysis to focus on markets instead of individual cases of greenwashing, my paper adds a novel perspective on the phenomenon and strategies to combat it.


Lee, Ho Cheung Brian, Jose M Cruz, and Ramesh Shankar. __Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Issues in Supply Chain Competition: Should Greenwashing Be Regulated?__ Decision Sciences 49, no. 6 (2018): 1088__1115.

Lyon, T. P., & Maxwell, J. W. (2011). Greenwash: Corporate environmental disclosure under threat of audit. Journal of Economics & Management Strategy, 20(1), 3__41.

Time: 11:20-11:50, 08 September 2022 (Thursday)
Location: SR 1.004

Jakob Lissy 
(University of Vienna, Austria)

Testability and Meaning deco