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Sustainability communication: Students investigate greenwashing in corporate communications

February 6, 2024

At the SDG Day, Bachelor students from the Corporate Communication degree program presented their analyses of greenwashing in a poster presentation. The SDG Award went to a Master’s thesis in the Communication Management degree program.

The Communication Management study programs were well represented at FHWien der WKW’s SDG Day on January 25, 2024. Bachelor’s students from the Corporate Communication degree program presented their research on sustainability communication and greenwashing. The SDG Award went to a Master’s thesis in Communication Management.

Closer look on sustainability campaigns

In the lecture “Organizational Communication & Ethics” in the winter semester 2023/24, the three cohorts of the Bachelor’s program in Corporate Communication (full-time, part-time and English block cohort) critically examined sustainability or advertising campaigns by companies for greenwashing. They were supported by the lecturer team Verena Fellner-Denk and Simone Zwickl. The Bachelor students presented the results of their analyses in a poster presentation at FHWien der WKW’s SDG Day.

A wide range of companies and campaigns was examined by the students. BMW was scrutinized with regard to pinkwashing, the FIFA Football Association and the hosting of the World Cup in Qatar and brands such as H&M Conscious were critically examined, and the statements of companies such as Shell were analysed with regard to sustainability. The students were also able to identify a lack of transparency in companies that position themselves as sustainable, such as Oatly, Innocent or the band Coldplay.

SDG Award for Master’s thesis

In her Master’s thesis in Communication Management, Laura Dippl dealt with the topic of “Quality seals in sustainability communication”. She received the SDG Award in the “Best Master’s Thesis” category for her work.

In her thesis, the graduate examines the influence of seals on the credibility of the message and trust in the sustainability communication by fashion companies on Instagram. In an experimental design, she is also testing the effect of real and fictitious quality seals against each other. The topic is particularly relevant as the fashion industry in particular has to deal with the accusation of “fast fashion”.

Green Claims Directive: Ban on greenwashing from 2027

The EU’s Green Claims Directive and mandatory ESG reporting for Austrian companies show that the requirements for transparent sustainability communication will increase. Through their critical examination of this topic, the students demonstrate that they are well equipped to meet these challenges.

Images: © Holly Kellner