Re-ethicizing corporate greening?

Ecofeminism, activism and the ethics of care

Authored by: Mary Phillips

The Routledge Companion to Ethics, Politics and Organizations

Print publication date:  May  2015
Online publication date:  June  2015

Print ISBN: 9780415821261
eBook ISBN: 9780203566848
Adobe ISBN: 9781136746246


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Over 20 years ago, W. Michael Hoffman wrote in Business Ethics Quarterly (1991) that corporations must develop urgently an environmental conscience and demonstrate moral leadership to solve a problem “that involves the very survival of the planet” (p. 173). We are now rapidly reaching a point of no return in terms of climate change while habitat and species continue to be lost at an alarming rate (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2014). Yet, meaningful change appears no nearer than it was in the early 1990s. Politicians and the business community seem utterly paralysed while efforts to address ecological crises have been a dismal failure (Wittneben et al., 2012). Climate change was barely mentioned in the 2012 US Presidential election, and environmental issues in both the USA and Europe have been sidelined politically by a focus on restoring economic growth at a time of recession (Ellis and Bastin, 2011; Wittneben et al., 2012). Corporate responses are characterized, first, by a focus on a business case approach based on obtaining competitive advantage (Bansal and Roth, 2000; Christmann, 2000; Dibrell et al., 2011). Second, reliance is placed on finding technical or ‘scientific’ solutions to environmental challenges (Boiral et al., 2009; Harris and Crane, 2002) and, third, corporations are accused of ‘greenwashing’ such that there is a distinct gap between environmental commitments made in policy statements and actual policy implementation (Ramus and Montiel, 2005; Walker and Wan, 2012). The resulting apathy and inertia has led to calls from within organization studies for a radical transformation of socio-political structures, economic systems and cultural values and identities (e.g. Wittneben et al., 2012) but to bring this about requires what has been described as a groundswell of moral outrage (Wittneben et al., 2012), a paradigm shift in mindsets (Banerjee, 2002; Cherrier et al., 2012), the reclaiming and reinvigoration of the concept of ‘nature’ (Banerjee, 2003), a spiritual reawakening and personal, affective engagement with the natural environment (Crossman, 2011; Pruzan, 2008).

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