Mired in deception: escalating an environmental disaster in Colombia

Orlando E. Contreras-Pacheco (ESC Rennes School of Business, Rennes, France, (Universidad Industrial de Santander, Bucaramanga, Colombia).)
Cyrlene Claasen (ESC Rennes School of Business, Rennes, France)

Journal of Business Strategy

ISSN: 0275-6668

Publication date: 16 April 2018



This paper aims to analyze concealment and deception in self-defeating organizational crisis response strategies and the possible consequences of their adoption on a company’s reputation. It represents an example of where every guideline to address stakeholders after a crisis was dismissed.


This paper investigates a major environmental incident that took place in Colombia in 2013 and studies how the responsible company responded to the incident through the examination of company reports, media statements and national and international newspaper articles.


The analysis shows that in addition to environmental damage, the company’s reputation was affected by the way the company responded during this crisis.

Research limitations/implications

The outcomes highlight the importance of the manner in which a crisis response is managed, as these types of mistakes often aggravate reputational damage.

Practical implications

This paper is an invitation for companies to be quick, consistent and transparent with their responses when facing their stakeholders in moments of crisis. Not doing so may aggravate not only social but also economic and environmental impacts.


Contrary to other contributions on the subject, this study implies that a misleading crisis response, including concealment and deception, can be an even greater challenge to a company’s reputation than the crisis itself.



Contreras-Pacheco, O. and Claasen, C. (2018), "Mired in deception: escalating an environmental disaster in Colombia", Journal of Business Strategy, Vol. 39 No. 2, pp. 39-46. https://doi.org/10.1108/JBS-04-2017-0058

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