Research: How Some Companies Avoid Accusations of Greenwashing

Joel Bothello, Ioannis Ioannou, Vlad-Andrei Porumb, Yasemin Zengin-Karaibrahimoglu

Research output: Contribution to specialist publicationArticle


Recent research reveals a troubling trend: apex firms in Business Groups often promote sustainability without substantial action. Analyzing data from 515 companies in 35 countries, the authors found that apex firms, especially those sharing a brand with affiliates, engaged less in sustainability initiatives than their lower-tier counterparts. This potential “greenwashing” might be tolerated due to the unique BG structure, where apex firms play communicators and affiliates act as implementers. Despite market tolerance, such discrepancies could harm long-term reputations. For genuine sustainability, firms must ensure accurate communication, inspire affiliates with shared values, diffuse best practices groupwide, and stay attuned to evolving stakeholder expectations. Sustainability is not just a symbolic gesture but a commitment requiring consistent, substantive action.
Original languageEnglish
Specialist publicationHarvard Business Review
Publication statusPublished - 27 Sept 2023


  • Greenwashing
  • Business groups
  • Sustainability
  • Investment
  • Scrutiny


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