February 16, 2018
Haines 279

The UCLA Department of Sociology Movements, Organizations, and Markets (MOM) Working Group is pleased to present:

Tom Lyon (Professor, Ross School of Business, University of Michigan): "Green Claims and Certification in the Field: Preliminary Findings from Qualitative Research on the Wine Industry"

Corporate impact on the natural environment is increasingly being scrutinized (Lyon & Shimshack, 2015; Robertson & Barling, 2015), creating significant pressure for organizations to disclose information about their corporate environmental performance (Kim & Lyon, 2015). As pressure for corporate environmental information increases, so too have the ways in which organizations communicate. To avoid accusations of deception, many organizations have turned to “ecolabels” or certifications (e.g. Organic, LEED) issued by third parties, allowing firms to credibly communicate their environmental performance (Conroy, 2007). Others, however, perhaps unable to meet such strict standards, choose to make self-assessed environmental claims. Not surprisingly, some such claims exaggerate the firm’s performance (i.e., greenwashing; Kim and Lyon, 2011; Lyon and Maxwell, 2011; Lyon and Montgomery, 2013, 2015); however, others understate environmental performance, a practice that has been termed “brownwash” (Kim and Lyon, 2014; Robertson et al., 2017). The result of this complex web of information and misinformation is often confusion on the part of consumers, employees, policy-makers, and the public – potentially degrading environmental progress. Although research on corporate environmental (mis)communication has yielded valuable initial insight into greenwashing (Lyon & Montgomery, 2015) and brownwashing (Kim & Lyon, 2014; Robertson et al., 2017), the role of ecolabels and regulation (Conroy, 2007; Fischer and Lyon, 2014), and consumer confusion (Prag et al., 2016), these research streams remain almost entirely separate. This paper approaches various questions raised by this dispersion of analysis through a series of qualitative interviews with managers in the wine industry, where multiple types of certification and green claims co-exist.