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Greenwashing and responsible investment practices: empirical evidence from Zimbabwe

Posi Olatubosun (BISA, University of Reading Henley Business School, Reading, UK)
Sethi Nyazenga (Department of Finance, National University of Science and Technology, Bulawayo, Zimbabwe)

Qualitative Research in Financial Markets

ISSN: 1755-4179

Article publication date: 1 November 2019

Issue publication date: 7 June 2021




This paper aims to explore the nature of responsible investment (RI) practices in Zimbabwe from the point of view of the institutional asset owners by investigating not only how they incorporate the ESG criteria when selecting investee companies but also the elements of greenwashing and impression management.


Based on semi-structured interviews conducted with Pension Fund Entities, Mutual Funds and Life Assurance companies, the authors used interpretive methodological approach to derive the symbolic RI techniques used.


This study discovered many symbolic acts of “greenwashing” and impression management as opposed to genuine concerns for ESG issues which are at the core of RI practice. RI is used as not only a systematic risk management instrument but also a symbolic marketing tool due to weak regulatory environment. Contrary to the significantly high public communication on RI, the actual links of the asset owners with the environmental impacts in investee companies is insignificant. The authors also found that there are clear distinctions between how foreign and local firms operating in the local economy engage on ESG matters.

Practical implications

This is likely to have practical implications for stewardship practices in developing jurisdictions where RI practices are puerile.


This paper contributes to the literature on RI dialogue by demonstrating the peculiarity of ESG engagement in a developing economy.



This paper forms part of a special section “Qualitative Research in Governance & Accountability”, guest edited by Jill Atkins, Sharif Khalid and Elisabetta Anna Vincenza Barone.


Olatubosun, P. and Nyazenga, S. (2021), "Greenwashing and responsible investment practices: empirical evidence from Zimbabwe", Qualitative Research in Financial Markets, Vol. 13 No. 1, pp. 16-36.



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