Any person can view the posts. Should you like to contribute to this blog, please contact the blog owner (you have to be a EURECA-PRO affiliated user). New posts are added on a regular basis.

What is greenwashing?

by Sarah Kollnig -

By Sarah Kollnig, Montanuniversität Leoben

Frequently, companies make claims to sustainability when these claims are actually unsubstantiated. This is called “greenwashing”. The European Commission has made a proposal for a Green Claims Directive, where it is stated that the following circumstances count as greenwashing (European Commission, March 2023):

  • Using sustainability labels that are not awarded by a public authority or through a certification scheme – such as labels created voluntarily by the industry.
  • Making generic environmental claims that cannot be substantiated by the company’s performance – such as claiming to be “climate neutral” when this is actually biophysically impossible.
  • Making environmental claims about the entire product, when it actually just concerns certain parts or aspects of the product – such as when one ingredient is sustainably sourced, yet it is claimed that the entire product is sustainable.
  • Presenting requirements imposed by law as a distinctive achievement of the producer/seller – such as making a point of switching to plastic-free alternatives when single-used plastics have been banned by law.

Making such claims is often accompanied by strong marketing narratives that create a sustainable image.

As sustainability researchers Bryant and Goodman already stated in 2004, there are two main narratives that can be distinguished. Firstly, a narrative of “Edenic myth-making”, and secondly, “solidarity-seeking consumption”.

Edenic myth-making creates the image that by buying a product, consumers contribute to saving idyllic ecosystems, such as the rainforests. Products contain images and words that trigger these associations in consumers. Examples are the expression “rainforest-friendly”, images of seemingly perfect ecosystems and animals in the wild, or even images of indigenous peoples.

The second narrative creates the impression that by buying a product, consumers help people from poorer countries. Products contain images of farmers from foreign countries and give insights into their “traditional” artisanal way of life. The product is not just a product – it has a face, it connects to people from the other side of the world. This way, consumers are made to believe that by buying a product, they help other people and show solidarity with them.

In addition to these narratives, product labelling has emerged as a way of distinguishing products from each other. These labels have emerged as a response to consumers becoming more critical about the background of a product or service. Yet, it is difficult for consumers to distinguish between labels bound to strict, independent regulations and labels basically made up by the producers.

All in all, greenwashing is a business practice that often lures consumers into buying products that are far from being sustainable regarding environmental and social aspects.

What can we do against this?

Very often, consumers do not have the time, energy and the economic resources to analyse products and choose the ones with the smallest environmental and social impacts. Therefore, it is necessary to create policies that ensure that producers and traders have to be more responsible and transparent regarding the impacts of their products and business practices.


Image credits: jtpatriot at pixabay


Bryant, R. & Goodman, M. (2004). Consuming narratives: The political ecology of ‘alternative’ consumption. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, Nr. 29, pp. 344-366

European Commission (2023). Proposal for a directive of the European Parliament and the Council on substantiation and communication of explicit environmental claims – Green Claims Directive. Brussels: European Commission.

Intellectual Property Rights: What is the cause of online piracy declining in the European Union?

by Sarah Kollnig -

By Dr. inż. Magdalena Letun-Łątka and Paula Telesz, Silesian University of Technology

Honesty is a very important human trait, which consists in adhering to certain social rules. In interpersonal relations, acting according to the principles of "fair-play" is treated on an equal footing with showing respect towards partners. Their use in business can often tip the scales of negotiations, showing that a potential business partner is guided by the moral values desired in cooperation.

Is honesty culturally based, can it be learned? The answer to this subject is certainly not the simplest. Of course, it can be assumed a priori that popular methods, such as legal incentives for honest behaviour with integrity, have a positive impact on social attitudes. However, the process of people's thinking is much more complex, which requires special analyses and studies. Therefore, it is best to narrow down the issue under consideration and focus on an area that can be calculated, and then draw objective conclusions from it.

Access to the Internet naturally shortens the barrier between the intellectual work (not only from legal sources) and its recipient. Piracy, which has reached a large scale in the Internet space, can be considered quite common among illegal ways of profiting from someone else's work. It is based on illegal activities consisting in copying and/or using the works of others without their consent and without paying the appropriate fees. Undoubtedly, piracy deprives creators of their remuneration and can be considered as theft. In addition, it is an issue closely related to intellectual property law.

However, a report recently published by the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) points to a positive phenomenon in terms of piracy. The scale of consumption of illegal content in the European Union (EU) is gradually decreasing. Between 2017 and 2020, the overall consumption of illegal content in the EU decreased by as much as 50%. At this point, it is worth quoting current statistical data for 2020 on the subject of the aforementioned decrease in illegal activity of EU citizens on the Internet:

  • Music piracy decreased by 81%;
  • Film piracy decreased by 68%;
  • TV piracy decreased by 41%.

The most common illegal ways of piracy are considered to be the following activities: illegal streaming of content (80%), illegal access to TV channels (70%), illegal access to movies (20%), illegal access to music (10%) and others, such as e.g. illegal downloading of protected works, torrenting, i.e. simultaneous downloading and uploading of data within a peer-to-peer network, or streaming ripping.

In the 2020 study, the lowest piracy rates were recorded in: Poland, Germany and Finland, respectively. At the same time, these countries are below the EU average.

So, is piracy a last resort for the recipient, e.g. due to the unavailability of a given work in a legal manner, and the solution is universal access to legal content, even in paid form? What influenced the positive trend in the attitude of European Union citizens towards piracy? Can it be argued that it is competition on the market (in the form of a number of possible options to choose from) that can affect the honesty of consumers? Was it the increase in the number of VOD (video-on-demand) services available as part of the subscription that influenced the above-mentioned results of the study?

Experts see a correlation between certain phenomena: in their opinion, the growing awareness of the existence of a legal offer could have influenced the decrease in the scale of consumption of illegal content. In addition, the number of legal platforms with movies and TV channels could also have a significant impact on consumer attitudes.

Certainly, attitudes related to the legality of the source when using someone else's intellectual property are influenced by many factors, e.g. access to legal sources, their price, education of content recipients, level of income per capita of a country, legal regulations in force in the country, or the morality of a person, which is a very individualized issue. Therefore, it is worth looking at such phenomena broadly and not focusing only on one perspective.





Image: Website with free graphics:

Entrepreneurship and the Sustainable Development Goals

by Sarah Kollnig -

In 2015, the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) were adopted by the United Nations as a compass for achieving sustainable development for all and within ecological limits by 2030. Recent studies show that we are far from achieving these goals, particularly regarding the goals related to social justice – such as SDG 1 “no poverty”, SDG 5 “gender equality”, or SDG 10 “reduced inequalities”.

In this blog post, I want to introduce some alternative ways of thinking about economics and, thus, entrepreneurship. This is because it can be argued that, in order to achieve the SDGs, the notion of economic growth has to be questioned. This concerns economic growth as the precondition for reaching the SDGs, as well as economic growth as a goal in itself (as in SDG 8 “decent work and economic growth”).

This way of thinking was popularized by the 2017 book “Doughnut Economics” by Oxford economist Kate Raworth. She conceptualizes the preconditions and limits for sustainable development in the shape of a doughnut: The inner ring of the doughnut is made up by basic social requirements – we need to provide a decent living for everyone, from the availability of drinking water over access to education to gender equality. The outer ring of the doughnut stands for the ecological limits of our planet that we cannot overstep – from climate change over ocean acidification to biodiversity loss. The inner and outer ring delineate the doughnut – the “safe and just space for humanity”.

In order to arrive at Doughnut Economics, Raworth suggests changing the fundamental assumptions of economics. An essential change is the departure from GDP growth as the main goal – towards aiming at human and ecological thriving and wellbeing. As she formulates it, we have to go from being “growth-addicted” to being “growth-agnostic”.

But what does this mean for entrepreneurs? I would like to take up two essential avenues towards operating within Doughnut Economics. One avenue is the Social Solidarity Economy as developed by Esteves and colleagues, and the other a Not-For-Profit World as suggested by Hinton and colleagues.

The Social Solidarity Economy builds upon community-led initiatives, which go beyond concerns with economic growth. These initiatives collectively manage shared resources, also called “commons”. This results in resilient systems able to address the complexity of sustainability and, thus, also going towards fulfilling the SDGs. While mainstream entrepreneurs would search for trade-offs between the different sustainability aspects, community-led initiatives tend to develop integrative approaches to sustainability. Examples are the common management of resources such as water or land or initiatives re-integrating the different steps of the food supply chain.

Similarly, Not-For-Profit (NFP) enterprises have socio-ecological aims rather than working for profit. NFPs do not depend on charity, but create their own revenues and re-invest profits to the benefit of their members. Thus, wealth circulates rather than being accumulated, which also reinforces community ties. NFPs can for instance be organized as cooperatives, in many areas from agriculture to banking.

In the end – what kind of enterprise would you found to get closer to achieving the SDGs?


Environmental doughnut infographic, published by DoughnutEconomics, in 2017, on Wikimedia Commons, see


Esteves, Ana Margarida, Genus, Audley, Henfrey, Thomas, Penha-Lopes, Gil, East, May (2021). Sustainable Entrepreneurship and the Sustainable Development Goals: Community-led initiatives, the social solidarity economy and commons ecologies. Business Strategy and the Environment, vol. 30, pp. 1423-1435

Hinton, Jennifer & Maclurcan, Donnie (2017). A not-for-profit world beyond capitalism and economic growth? ephemera theory and politics in organization, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 147-166

Raworth, Kate (2017). Doughnut Economics. Seven Ways to Think Like a 21st-Century Economist. Vermont: Chelsea Green Publishing

What is responsible entrepreneurship?

by Sarah Kollnig -

Image rights:  Jon Sullivan (public domain)

By Sarah Kollnig, Montanuniversität Leoben

Entrepreneurs are persons who break with the static “business as usual”. They develop new ideas and approaches and, thus, bring a dynamic element into the business world. Their innovations are often met with resistance, and it takes time to establish them on the market.

Entrepreneurship is grounded and contextualized in wider society. Often, new ideas emerge at the interface between different actors, from private businesses over non-governmental organisations to the public sector. Nowadays, education for entrepreneurship also includes civic aspects, particularly being aware of and taking responsibility for societal challenges.

Responsible entrepreneurship entails taking responsibility for socio-ecological impacts generated in all phases and aspects of entrepreneurial activities. Responsibility can be read as “response-ability”, which means that taking responsibility often happens in response to political or societal demands. Examples for this are environmental impact assessments that are legally required or the demand for Corporate Social Responsibility reports.

Ideally, however, taking responsibility is not a passive response to external demands. Responsible entrepreneurs are proactive in developing products and services that address larger societal problems, such as plastic pollution. They might also go further and question the notion that businesses need to make ever higher profits.

In the blog entries to follow, we will find out about the different aspects of being a responsible entrepreneur, from avoiding greenwashing to interacting with consumers in a responsible and meaningful manner.

Sources and further reading:
Steyaert, Chris & Hjorth, Daniel (2006). Entrepreneurship as Social Change. A Third Movements in Entrepreneurship Book. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing

Image credits:
Jon Sullivan (public domain)