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Environmental claims in Indian print advertising: an empirical study and policy recommendation

Mousami Prasad (Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Mumbai, India)
Trupti Mishra (Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Mumbai, India)
Arti D. Kalro (Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Mumbai, India)
Varadraj Bapat (Shailesh J. Mehta School of Management, Indian Institute of Technology Bombay, Mumbai, India)

Social Responsibility Journal

ISSN: 1747-1117

Article publication date: 7 August 2017

Abstract

Purpose

Environmental claims in advertising (green ads) provide competitive advantage to firms. This study aims to understand what kinds of environmental claims advertisers make in a developing nation like India. Further, implications for policymakers and advertisers are discussed.

Design/methodology/approach

A content analysis of 279 green print advertisements was conducted using a comprehensive list of claim categories identified from the advertising literature. These categories included advertiser profile; ad promotions – type, sector, appeal; claim – nature, type, focus, validity, emphasis; executional elements – illustration setting, presenter, format/structure and environmental issue, identified from past studies and practitioner interviews.

Findings

The findings suggest that majority of the advertisers using green ads are manufacturers. Consumer durables, real estate and power sector together constitute one-third of the total green ads. Further, most of the green ads are aimed at influencing consumer behaviour. Though most of the ads contain strong emphasis on environmental attributes, they are ambiguous. A large proportion of claims are credence in nature and lack product identification through environmental certifications. This study also identifies areas of concern including interpretation of the term green, use of multiple certifications, greenwashing and advertisers showing environmental responsiveness through event-based green advertising. Policy recommendations are made based on green advertising regulations governing them across developed and other developing countries.

Research limitations/implications

The content analysis of the green advertisements in this study was limited to newspaper advertisements within the print media. Future studies may use advertisements from different media types, such as the internet ads and television commercials, to examine the effect of media type on the nature of green advertisements. It would also be interesting to examine the role of regulations as a moderator, influencing the claims made in green advertisements.

Practical implications

The findings of this study provide a comprehensive overview of the nature of green advertisements in India. Marketers may use these insights to design effective green advertising strategies.

Originality/value

Most of the extant literature has examined environmental claims in the context of developed nations, where regulations are well established. Very few studies have examined this issue in the context of developing countries. In addition, most of the previous studies have focused on specific issues like greenwashing, appeals and execution elements. The present study contributes to green advertising by examining environmental claims in case of a developing nation like India using a comprehensive list of claim categories. This study also identifies areas of concern and suggests recommendations for policymakers and advertisers.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

The authors would like to thank the two coders for content analysis of green ads and anonymous reviewers for their valuable suggestions and comments. The usual disclaimer applies.

Citation

Prasad, M., Mishra, T., Kalro, A.D. and Bapat, V. (2017), "Environmental claims in Indian print advertising: an empirical study and policy recommendation", Social Responsibility Journal, Vol. 13 No. 3, pp. 473-490. https://doi.org/10.1108/SRJ-05-2016-0091

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2017, Emerald Publishing Limited