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Greenwashing and Net Zero

Professor Montgomery’s research deals with two key areas that are emerging as important in climate change research: corporate “greenwashing” and the intersections of climate and social justice.  

Greenwashing is the phenomenon of organizations making false or misleading claims about their environmental performance. The rapid proliferation of businesses making commitments regarding net zero has led to an increased focus on greenwashing. An Integrated Framework to Assess Greenwashing, a recent paper co-authored by Montgomery in the Journal of Sustainability and highlighted in the Washington Post, provides an “actionable tool for analysing the quality and truthfulness” of environmental claims. Professor Montgomery also currently has several projects in the review process: a forward-looking review of greenwashing practices, examining the impact of greenwashing on employee behaviours; and, studying “brownwashing,” whereby firms downplay environmental achievements, a new phenomenon which may also serve to delay climate action. This research will help improve accountability and transparency of corporate commitment-making, driving companies to make real concrete improvements. 

Montgomery’s recently-awarded SSHRC projects ― Building Sustainable Justice to Address Resource Inequality and Science, Industry, and the Public: The Policy Battle over Fossil Fuel Infrastructure ― have a major focus on climate-related social justice. This research aims to systematically examine the causes of, as well as resistance against, growing inequality, especially as it relates to natural resource access and affordability. Towards this end, Montgomery currently has work in the review process on water system governance and justice, and a review and theory development project in process on the intersections between justice, sustainability, and business. Climate justice is an area that the BSV has identified as a topic on which they would like to expand their work. This research will lead to a better understanding of the problem of unequal impacts of climate change, particularly on poor and marginalized communities, so we can move to more equitable outcomes around climate action.  

Wren Montgomery: Greenwashing and Net Zero

Wren Montgomery

Assistant Professor

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