Global businesses, many of them now larger and more powerful than nation states, exhibit enormous sway on humanity’s response to the climate crisis. Indeed, in the lead-up to the Paris climate talks later this month there is growing media focus on so-called business “leadership” on climate change. For instance, just last month Royal Dutch Shell, General Electric, BHP Billiton and management consultancy McKinsey & Co. announced the establishment of a committee to advise governments on how to combat global warming while strengthening economic growth. This follows other announcements such as Unilever’s chief executive officer, Paul Polman, emphasising the need for private sector mobilization to close the shortfall in emission commitments made by governments, as well as Virgin’s CEO Richard Branson who has argued that “our only hope to stop climate change is for industry to make money from it.” Continue reading Corporations and climate change
Recently, Daniel Nyberg and I did an interview with Catherine Zengerer on radio station 2SER’s “On the Money” show about our new book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction.
The interview is a good outline of many of the core arguments in our book. As the summary accompanying the interview outlines:
With climate change an impending reality it seems the world has a problem with overconsumption. But according to two business professors we are failing to address the very cause of climate change – capitalism.
Neoliberal economists argue that climate change – a market problem, is addressed by a market solution. But according to Professor Christopher Wright and Professor Daniel Nyberg more consumption is not the solution in a society where the environmental model is often traded off for a business model. Can we have our cake and eat it too?
You can hear the full interview (about 10 minutes) here.
Bill McKibben has argued that “it’s possible that there’s no greater example of corporate irresponsibility than climate change – I mean, these companies melted the Arctic, and then rushed to drill in the open water. ”
With the recent revelations that oil giant Exxon has known about the likely catastrophic impacts of continued fossil fuel use as far back as 1981, it seems McKibben is spot on in his assessment. After all what could be more immoral and irresponsible than knowingly destroying the habitable climate of the only home we have – planet Earth! Continue reading Panel Discussion on Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations
The University of Sydney Business School recently featured the new book that Daniel Nyberg and I have authored Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-destruction as part of their Research Highlights series. The book is presented as “a sobering yet hopeful account of how corporate myths have slowed our response to human-caused climate change, and what we can do about it.” You can view the PDF of the story here and the video is below.
Leading public intellectual and Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Sturt University, Clive Hamilton very generously wrote the excellent Foreword to our new book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: processes of Creative Destruction. Below is an adapted version of that Foreword recently published in The Conversation.
In his 2006 landmark report on how we should respond to the climate crisis, Nicholas Stern characterised global warming as an ‘externality’, a damage to others due to market activity whose cost is not met by those who cause it. Continue reading Creative Self-Destruction and the Climate
Our new book Climate Change, Capitalism, and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction has just been published. Based on research that Daniel Nyberg and I have been conducting over the last 6 years, the book explores the complex relationship that the corporate world has with climate change and the central role corporations play in shaping political and social responses to the climate crisis.
In the book, we explore the different processes through which corporations engage with climate change. The principal message is that despite the need for dramatic economic and political change, corporate capitalism continues to rely on the maintenance of ‘business as usual’. As outlined in this short summary in The Conversation this involves the myth that ‘green’ capitalism is a viable response to the climate crisis. This response enables the incorporation of critique and the maintenance of corporate capitalism despite the dire environmental consequences. Continue reading New book on Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations
Recently I helped organise a social media training event at my university. The idea was to expose academics to different social media platforms, highlight the advantages of social media for academic work, and also teach them the basics of blogging and Twitter. Afterwards I was interviewed about how and why I use social media in my climate change research. Having been seduced by the attractions of social media some years ago, I’m now very much a social media advocate. Anyway, here’s my response to some of the interview questions re my own social media use:
Writing about climate change often requires some type of visual reference particularly given the way our eyes are drawn to the visual in social media settings and more generally in public debate. But how do you visually represent the human-induced climate disruption we are now living through? As Naomi Klein has demonstrated so powerfully, climate change ‘changes everything’! And yet despite its profound impacts, it is a phenomenon that is also diffuse across space and time.
This was an issue that I confronted late last year when Daniel Nyberg and I completed the manuscript for our forthcoming book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction. With the draft manuscript sent off to the publishers, we then agonised over the book cover design. An early offer from the publishers presented a somewhat anodyne image of suited business people on an escalator (the sort of thing one sees everyday on management textbook covers) – probably relevant in that context but nothing really about climate change. Continue reading Representing Climate Change?
Our new book Climate Change, Capitalism, and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-Destruction will be released in both paperback and hardback in late September. You can view the website for the book here.
Based on research that Daniel Nyberg and I have been conducting over the last 6 years, the book explores the complex relationship that the corporate world has with climate change and examines the central role of corporations in shaping political and social responses to the climate crisis. Continue reading Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations out in September
A common theme in popular business discourse is the demise of bureaucracy and the emergence of a new, more liberating post-bureaucratic era. While subject to variation, common themes in this genre include organisations becoming less insular, hierarchical and rule-bound and more change-focused, enterprising and collaborative. Indeed, the persona of the manager as leader is a recurring image. A ‘high-flyer’, familiar with consulting and MBA techniques, experienced in a wide range of industry settings and jumping from one corporate turnaround to the next.
But as is so often the case in claims of fundamental change, there is good reason to be sceptical about the demise of bureaucracy and the birth of this ‘new’ 21st century organisational ideal. In our recent book Management as Consultancy: Neo-bureaucracy and the Consultant Manager, Andrew Sturdy, Nick Wylie and I argue that while large organisations are changing, there are also strong resonances with the past. Based on an extensive analysis of Australian and British corporations, we find that managers are becoming less explicitly hierarchical and more market and change oriented. Continue reading The Age of Neo-bureaucracy
The following is an extract from our forthcoming book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations: Processes of Creative Self-destruction (Cambridge University Press) - out in bookshops later this year.
Corporate marketing and branding around sustainability and ‘green’ themes has undergone dynamic growth over the past decade as social concern over the environment and climate change has spiralled. Many major consumer brands – including Walmart, Ben & Jerry’s, GE, Toyota, Patagonia, Frito-Lay, Timberland, Tesco and even Shell – have embraced a ‘green’ message in their marketing.
A principal aim has been to successfully tap into consumers’ increased environmental awareness while avoiding allegations of duplicity or ‘greenwashing’. Guy Pearse has documented that there is often a disconnect between the ‘green’ boasts of corporate advertising and the reality of environmental impact. A selective focus on specific products and activities is sometimes exposed, as are assertions that are simply inaccurate; but what remains unmistakable in all such activities is an emphasis on evoking positive emotions among consumers and the public in general as part of an alternative emotionology of challenge and opportunity.
As a growing number of studies have demonstrated, climate change poses a significant threat to future social and economic activities. Indeed, the language of ‘risk’ has become a perennial theme in discussions of future climate change impacts and a central construct for how businesses respond to and ‘manage’ climate change.
Recently Daniel Nyberg and I had an article accepted for publication in the journal Organization exploring how corporations have responded to climate uncertainties and threats as ‘risks’ (pre-print PDF here). Conventional cognitive-scientific depictions of risk see organisations as ontologically separate from the risk they act upon. The core assumption underlying risk management is that risk is ‘out there’ and it just has to be ‘found’ and ‘captured’ by professional experts using statistical tools and analysis.
So this brief post arose in response to a blog post on another site entitled “What’s the point of social science?”. In this piece the authors’ described their experience attending a conference in France which addressed the topic of “Confidence, Credibility, and Authority in Climate Sciences and Politics”.
Now I have no idea what the quality of individual papers and presentations at this conference was, but the authors of the blog were clearly unimpressed by the social science contributions. As they noted:
The talks from scientists were generally straightforward, but the social science talks inevitably left us waiting for the punchline. They would get to the end and stop, before reaching any real conclusion. This has been a common impression we have both got from a number of similar events. The speakers tend to be long on historical description and retrospective analysis, and short on anything amounting to overall vision, substantive advice or predictive claims. (There have been notable exceptions to this general impression, but they are rare.)
Daniel Nyberg and Christopher Wright
As any student of economic history knows, the notion of destruction has been a grim constant in attempts to characterize the relationship between capitalist dynamism and ever-spiralling consumption. Marx and Engels warned of enforced destruction. Joseph Schumpeter championed a dauntless culture of creative destruction. And now we find ourselves in an era of what we might call creative self-destruction.
Visitors to this blog will know of my interest in climate futures, a subject I’ve published on in academic outlets. Recently I re-read British sociologist John Urry’s excellent article “Climate Change, Travel and Complex Futures”. I remember first reading this in 2008 and the future scenarios it outlined opened my eyes to the huge issue of climate change adaptation. Indeed, this article and Al Gore’s 2006 movie Inconvenient Truth were major influences in re-directing my research towards the issue of business responses to climate change (which this blog summarizes).