Scrutiny, Norms, and Selective Disclosure: A Global Study of Greenwashing
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Under increased pressure to report environmental impacts, some firms selectively disclose relatively benign impacts, creating an impression of transparency while masking their true performance. We theorize circumstances under which firms are less likely to engage in such selective disclosure, focusing on organizational and institutional factors that intensify scrutiny and expectations of transparency and that foster civil society mobilization. We test our hypotheses using a novel panel data set of 4,750 public companies across many industries that are headquartered in 45 countries during 2004–2007. Results show that firms that are more environmentally damaging, particularly those in countries where they are more exposed to scrutiny and global norms, are less likely to engage in selective disclosure. We discuss contributions to research on institutional theory, strategic management, and information disclosure.