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Blog post
August 15, 2022

Isentia Malaysia Case Study: Exploring Malaysians’ Perception of Greenwashing

Sustainability in businesses, and where to draw the line

With consumers taking more of an interest in living a sustainable lifestyle, many companies are prompted to take steps to reduce their environmental impact and embrace sustainability.

 

However, what happens when companies make false claims that they are more sustainable than they actually are? This is where greenwashing comes in. Greenwashing is when a brand frames itself to be environmentally conscious for marketing purposes but is not making any notable sustainability efforts.

 

We analysed conversations on greenwashing among Malaysia’s social media users powered by Pulsar’s data.

 

Who is involved and how did these discussions on greenwashing go?

Our study shows that the term “greenwashing” is not as widely used when consumers call out practices that mislead the people with positive communications on environmental and sustainability practices when it is not. 

 

‘Investment’, ‘banking’, ‘ESG’, and ‘sustainability’ are just some of the keywords most commonly used when Malaysians talk about greenwashing. 

 

Consumers tend to be sceptical and raise concerns with sustainability claims as they question the effectiveness and legitimacy of such initiatives. Some have linked such “green efforts” as a tactic for cost-cutting and even for financial gains.

What are the audience segments that have been talking about greenwashing online?

Malaysians talking about greenwashing online lean slightly more towards males. In terms of age group, the 18 to 24 years old have shown stronger interest in the topic. 

 

They are most interested in watching movies and TV and have high media affinity with some of the nation’s prominent media outlets such as Astro Awani, The Star, and Bernama. They tend to be sentimental, particular, and analytical.    

 

The top three audience segments we have identified talking about greenwashing are The Green Lovers, The Informers, and the Activists

The Green Lovers who are passionate about sustainable lifestyle are highly interested in entertainment and social issues. Their choices are driven by a desire for well-being. 

 

The Informers, on the other hand, follow media outlets such as Astro Awani, The Star, and Bernama and tend to share content that concern the people with their networks. Their desire for organisation drives the choices that they make.


The Activists describe themselves as advocates for social issues. They follow political figures such as Khairy Jamaluddin, Syed Saddiq, and Hannah Yeoh. They are philosophical, authority-challenging, and empathetic.

Despite having different interests, their purchase decisions are likely to be influenced by online advertisements, brand names, and social media.

What industries do consumers associate with greenwashing?

Sustainable businesses are focused on continuous improvement and long-term goals. They seek to promote the health of a company and the community in which it operates while balancing these goals with the need to develop profit.

 

However, despite efforts to campaign for sustainability and adhere to ESG (Environmental, Social, and Governance) standards, some industries such as banking, oil and gas, and fast fashion have been called out for greenwashing.

Consumers have also pointed out initiatives such as the RM0.20 plastic bag pollution charges by the public sector for missing the ESG mark for seemingly profiting from the use of plastic bags. 

Generally, these sectors have been criticised for failing to fulfil their ‘green commitments’ adequately.

Greenwashing can be harmful to a company’s reputation in the long run. As many consumers are focusing on ‘conscious consumerism’, companies are expected to live up to their sustainability goals. 

 

Get in touch with Isentia today to learn more about what consumers are saying about your company and brand in relation to greenwashing.

This blog was produced using data from our sister company 
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