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Reputational laundering - the act of appearing to do good publicly in order to offset a negative image. A technique usually employed by individuals or corporations who have made their money in a morally questionable fashion and who wish to appear to have a moral conscience.

Reputational laundering often comes in the form of Corporate Social Responsibility, where a relatively trivial sum of profits are donated by the corporation to fund socially oriented activities in order to suggest that the corporation is socially responsible.

An example, often sited, would be major oil companies giving charitable funds to communities in the Nigeria Delta whose original livelihoods they were implicit in destroying through the extraction of crude oil.

However the practice of reputational laundering is by no means exclusive to corporations. Many morally bankrupt individuals donate money to charity in order that they are seen to care about social or environmental issues. As an added benefit to their undeservedly improved public image they also enjoy significant tax breaks on their donations.
Given that it has just paid record fines for insider trading, PJ Gorman’s effort to support a youth programme in the inner city is little more than reputational laundering.
by katrinmacmillan May 11, 2016
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