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Bluewashing (a word with similar connotations to "whitewash" and "greenwash") is term used to describe deceptive marketing that overstates a company's commitment to responsible social practices.[1] It can be used interchangeably with the term greenwashing but has a greater focus on economic and community factors.[2] Alternatively, it could be phrased as a way that companies hide the social damage that their policies have caused.[3]

Active disinformation is a tool that companies use to make their goods or services more attractive to their consumers and shareholders.[4]


Bluewashing is a relatively new term that is still being established. It has generally been accepted to be a spin on greenwashing with a greater focus on social and economic responsibility, but the actual definition varies in different academia.[citation needed]

Bluewashing was first used in relation to the United Nations and their Global Compact. A report found that 40% of corporate members who volunteered for the compact did not use its ten principles to make any policy reforms.[5] The compact is non-binding and the United Nations has publicly stated that it does not have the resources to monitor the bodies who are supposedly participating in it.[6] Therefore, concerns were raised that participating companies were using the compact as a way to "blue wash" their reputation aka improve public perception of their morals without legitimately introducing any policy reforms.[7][8] The companies who joined were accused of using the United Nations' "excellent social reputation" to improve their own standing.[9] The word blue was inspired by the colour of the United Nations' flag.[10]

Other interpretations have been made in the digital domain. Van Dijk and co-authors use the term in the context of human rights such as privacy. Blue-washing here refers to the minimal instrumental use by organizations of supposed right-protecting measures like privacy by design without adequate checks, in order to portray themselves as more privacy-friendly than is factually justified. The colour blue refers to first-generation human rights as civic and political freedoms, often called blue rights, which can be contrasted with second-generation economic, social and cultural rights called red rights, and third-generation environmental rights called green rights (see three generations of human rights).[11] Luciano Floridi uses the term in the context of ethics and also defines it as a digital alternative to its counterpart, greenwashing. He describes bluewashing as a form of misinformation that deceives consumers into thinking a corporation is more digitally ethical than it actually is. This is usually achieved by vague or unsubstantiated claims in a company's advertisements. The key example given is that of an AI; he notes that in many cases, it would be cheaper to persuade people that an AI meets ethical considerations rather than legitimately ensuring the AI meets them.[12]

Consumer impact[edit]

The impact of bluewashing is markedly similar to the impact of greenwashing. Ensuring that consumers believe that a company is ethically and morally responsible raises a positive attitude toward the company.[13] This can result in increased consumer loyalty, higher market shares and a willingness to pay higher prices for their products.[14] However, the presence of bluewashing and greenwashing has been linked with an increase of consumer distrust. Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of the deceptive marketing practices, which can lead them to automatically doubt claims of social responsibility.[15]

Societal impact[edit]

As bluewashing consists of false or misleading claims, instances of it have the potential to obscure the true facts of a situation.[10]


  1. ^ Vinzenz, Friederike; Priskin, Julianna; Wirth, Werner; Ponnapureddy, Sindhuri; Ohnmacht, Timo (2019-11-02). "Marketing sustainable tourism: the role of value orientation, well-being and credibility". Journal of Sustainable Tourism. 27 (11): 1663–1685. doi:10.1080/09669582.2019.1650750. ISSN 0966-9582. S2CID 203176834.
  2. ^ Julien, Bazillier, Rémi Vauday. The Greenwashing Machine : is CSR more than Communication. OCLC 859511967.
  3. ^ McElroy, Erin (2019-07-03). "Data, dispossession, and Facebook: techno-imperialism and toponymy in gentrifying San Francisco". Urban Geography. 40 (6): 826–845. doi:10.1080/02723638.2019.1591143. ISSN 0272-3638. S2CID 150455690.
  4. ^ Hickman, Beth Wallace; Gates, Gail E.; Dowdy, Richard P. (September 1993). "Nutrition claims in advertising: A study of four women's magazines". Journal of Nutrition Education. 25 (5): 227–235. doi:10.1016/S0022-3182(12)81000-4.
  5. ^ Assessing the Global Compact’s Impact. (2004, May 11). In McKinsey & Company.
  6. ^ "Our Integrity Measures | UN Global Compact". Retrieved 2021-05-04.
  7. ^ Thérien, Jean-Philippe; Pouliot, Vincent (2006). "The Global Compact: Shifting the Politics of International Development?". Global Governance. 12 (1): 55–75. doi:10.1163/19426720-01201006. ISSN 1075-2846. JSTOR 27800598.
  8. ^ Hirsch, Asher Lazarus; Doig, Cameron (2018-05-28). "Outsourcing control: the International Organization for Migration in Indonesia". The International Journal of Human Rights. 22 (5): 681–708. doi:10.1080/13642987.2017.1417261. ISSN 1364-2987. S2CID 149483565.
  9. ^ Mattera, Marina; Alba Ruiz-Morales, Carmen (2020-01-01). "UNGC principles and SDGs: perception and business implementation". Marketing Intelligence & Planning. 39 (2): 249–264. doi:10.1108/MIP-08-2018-0319. ISSN 0263-4503. S2CID 225361390.
  10. ^ a b Cerne, Annette; Jansson, Johan (2019-01-01). "Projectification of sustainable development: implications from a critical review". International Journal of Managing Projects in Business. 12 (2): 356–376. doi:10.1108/IJMPB-04-2018-0079. ISSN 1753-8378. S2CID 182133951.
  11. ^ van Dijk, Niels; Tanas, Alessia; Rommetveit, Kjetil; Raab, Charles (2018-04-10). "Right engineering? The redesign of privacy and personal data protection". International Review of Law Computers & Technology. 32 (2): 230–256. doi:10.1080/13600869.2018.1457002. hdl:20.500.11820/fc11577d-3520-4ae4-abfd-3d767aeac906. S2CID 65276552.
  12. ^ Floridi, Luciano (2019-06-01). "Translating Principles into Practices of Digital Ethics: Five Risks of Being Unethical". Philosophy & Technology. 32 (2): 185–193. doi:10.1007/s13347-019-00354-x. ISSN 2210-5441.
  13. ^ Vinzenz, Friederike; Priskin, Julianna; Wirth, Werner; Ponnapureddy, Sindhuri; Ohnmacht, Timo (2019-11-02). "Marketing sustainable tourism: the role of value orientation, well-being and credibility". Journal of Sustainable Tourism. 27 (11): 1663–1685. doi:10.1080/09669582.2019.1650750. ISSN 0966-9582. S2CID 203176834.
  14. ^ Berliner, Daniel; Prakash, Aseem (2015). ""Bluewashing" the Firm? Voluntary Regulations, Program Design, and Member Compliance with the United Nations Global Compact". Policy Studies Journal. 43 (1): 115–138. doi:10.1111/psj.12085. ISSN 1541-0072.
  15. ^ Verma, Dr Priti (2015). Effective Communication, Management & Organizational Growth. Variety Books. pp. 94–100.