Greedwashing refers to an attempt to disguise extraordinary corporate greed through the promotion of charitable contributions, as a way to defuse public anger and advance a more positive or redeeming social image for the corporation.
Goldman Sachs, a financial firm that received $12.9 billion in federal taxpayer-funded bailout money in 2008-2009, prepared to give its employees bonuses estimated to be worth around $595,000 per employee in 2009, a time of declining economy, high unemployment rates and extraordinary financial hardship for the rest of the country. During that period, the company's press team considered a program to defray public anger at the firm over the bonuses: Goldman would require its top employees to donate a set percentage of their pay to charity each year.
According to the New York Times, the charitable-giving scheme was likely to help defray public anger against the firm for indulging its employees in financial excess at taxpayer expense during a recession.
Goldman set aside $16.7 billion for compensation in the first nine months of 2009. In successful years, the firm typically dedicates about three-quarters of its compensation budget to year-end bonuses. In January, 2010, the firm was expected to report that it had earned record profits of about $12 billion in 2009.
Related SourceWatch resources
- UrbanDictionary.com definition of greedwashing
- Louise Story and Eric Dash Banks Prepare for Big Bonuses, and Public Wrath, New York Times, January 9, 2010
- The Editors Is Goldman’s Charitable Gesture Enough? Room for Debate, a New York Times blog, running commentary on the news; November 19, 2009