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Notre Dame research exposes corporate greenwashing

Posting in Energy

Think carefully before you boast about greenhouse gas emissions reductions.

Next time your marketing writers are tempted to "beef up" your corporate sustainability claims in your ongoing financial reports, consider this: a paper published by Notre Dame management professor Sarv Devaraj and 2010 Notre Dame MBA graduate Suvrat Dhanorkar has demonstrated a NEGATIVE link between the reports of companies that boast excessively about their energy efficiency and carbon-intensity results and their actual performance. The two compared claims against actual performance, as measured by Newsweek's annual Green Ranking.

Devaraj says: "One of the reasons for the negative finding could be that companies are including mentions of sustainability in their annual reports because the topic increasingly is important to investors, even though operational measures haven’t yielded actual performance results as yet."

Devaraj discusses his research, published in a paper called "Do as I Say, Not as I Do," in this video:

So, keep this in mind when you're tempted to say more than you're actually delivering. In this case, less is more. Plus I'm sure that the Federal Trade Commission will look at this research rather closely.

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Heather Clancy

Section Editor

Heather Clancy has written for United Press International, ZDNet, Entrepreneur, Fortune Small Business, the International Herald Tribune and the New York Times. She holds a degree from McGill University. She is based in New Jersey. Follow her on Twitter. Disclosure