Fuzzy reporting as a way for a company to greenwash: perspectives from the Colombian reality

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Drawing on the legitimacy theory framework, this study introduces an alternative means to spot “fuzzy reporting” signals as a way to detect greenwashing at the firm level. Its approach is based on the way the sustainability reporting process can mislead stakeholders after critical incidents take place. In order to do so, a single environmental incident, which took place in Colombia, is analyzed in light of what happened before, during and afterwards, with special emphasis on the corporate disclosure process performed by the company involved. Results obtained give support to the assumption that fuzzy reporting can be objectively detected not only through the analysis of annual sustainability reports, but also by tracking other forms of corporate messages when a specific concern is carefully followed. This study’s contribution is two-fold. First, it builds on the theoretical notions of greenwashing and fuzzy reporting by illustrating a practical and objective way to identify some deceiving corporate practices. Second, it empirically evaluates this approach in a sensitive context in order to obtain better illustration and prepare the groundwork for further studies.

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    • Figure 1. A typology of firms based on CSR performance and communication
    • Figure 2. Greenwashing transgressions by companies
    • Table 1. Potential variables to analyze
    • Table 2. Mentions of the amount of coal dumped into the ocean