Morally transgressive companies and sustainable guidelines: seeking redemption or abusing trust?


  • Universidade de São Paulo
  • Universidade de São Paulo
  • Universidade de São Paulo


s Sustainable management, Branding, Greenwashing, Brand moral transgression, Institutional legitimation



This study aims to evaluate the impact of a sustainable production action on consumer trust and purchase intention by a company involved in moral transgression and also analyze the effect on consumer trust and purchase intention if a company, after green marketing, is identified as greenwashing spreader.


This quantitative nature (n = 121) study uses scale’s discriminant and convergent validity analyses, structural equation modeling and Student’s t-test.


Even for previously morally transgressive brands, actions of social legitimation, such as embracing environmental causes, positively impact consumer trust and purchase intention. However, consumers drop brand trust and purchase intention when verifying that this action was greenwashing.

Research limitations/implications

Mediating or moderating variables of ecological awareness, such as religiosity or political view, were not tested.

Practical implications

This article combines the impact of positive, sustainable management actions for morally transgressive companies and the effects of new transgression on their sustainable management action. Thus, it aims to reduce the gap between organizational practice and management research.

Social implications

This article shows that embracing society’s emerging causes and helping the world be a better place to live, moving toward the 2030 United Nations agenda, have practical repercussions for organizations.


This article contributes both to the literature and managerial implications by combining the impact of positive, sustainable management actions for morally transgressive companies and the effects of new transgression on their sustainable management action, thus reducing the gap between management research and organizational practice by unveiling the relations between sustainable actions and their perceived consequences.


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