The Instascams Of Big Candy: Greenwashing, Corporate Harm & Fraudulent Ethical Narratives
Corporate social media plays a key role in obfuscating and distracting from environmental crimes perpetrated against people, animals, and the environment by corporations. A prime example of this is the chocolate industry which has continued to expand at a rapid rate despite a slew of well-documented crimes, in part due to narratives that present chocolate as an environmentally friendly, socially responsible, welfare-friendly, and nutritious consumer good. In response, this thesis will explore how the chocolate companies Mars, Nestlé, and Whittakers use ethical content in their Instagram content to construct particular narratives. It does this by employing a quantitative content analysis to quantify how frequently ethical elements are utilized, and a qualitative thematic analysis to identify and analyse the themes and narratives present within these texts. In exploring these issues this thesis employs a theoretical framework of green criminology, green-cultural criminology, and a critical perspective of food crime. It also draws extensively from the existing literature on greenwashing, media narratives, and corporate harm. Major findings include the identification of 20 different ethical elements across chocolate companies' Instagram content, with a notable predominance of ‘environmental image’ and ‘animal welfare image’, both of which were commonly used by Mars, Nestlé, and Whittakers. Other significant findings include the identification of 13 themes and 17 instances of suspected or confirmed greenwashing - seven from Mars, six from Nestlé, and four from Whittakers. These results demonstrate the use of greenwashing across the confectionary sector. Overall these findings suggest that the victimization of the environment, farmers, animals, and consumers are obscured by social media which disguises and distracts from brands’ real actions. Results also suggest that greenwashing is going under-regulated - a process facilitated by the increasing sophistication of greenwash, state interests, neoliberal market forces, and the geographic distance between consumers and environmental victims.