Monday, July 8, 2013

BOOK REVIEW: "Eco-Business: A Big-Brand Takeover of Sustainability" - Private Interests Fuel Corporate Sustainability

Cover Courtesy MIT Press
by Peter Dauvergne and Jane Lister, UTNE Reader:

The benefits of corporate sustainability principles are brought into question as big-brand companies continue to implement more environmental goals.

Zero waste. 100 percent renewable energy. Zero toxics. 100 percent sustainable sourcing. Zero deforestation.

These are just some of the grand promises that multinational companies such as Walmart, NestlĂ©, Nike, McDonald’s, and Coca-Cola are now making as they claim to lead a corporate charge toward “sustainability.”

“We’re integrating sustainability principles and practices into everything we do,” Nike tells us boldly.

What is going on? Why are these big-brand companies making such promises? Why do they seem to be accelerating their efforts? Is this merely crafty marketing? Are they using feel-good rhetoric to placate governments, activists, and consumers?

Some of what we are seeing is definitely “greenwashing” and business as usual.

But, as this book will reveal, these iterations of “corporate sustainability” have more powerful drivers and motives, and more varied consequences, than previous iterations, which tended toward peripheral, one-off, reputation-saving responses.

Now, leading-brand companies are racing to adopt sustainability in order to enhance their growth and control within the global economy.

These big-brand companies are defining corporate sustainability and implementing it through their operations and supply chains to gain competitive advantages and increase sales and profits.

What we call “eco-business” - taking over the idea of sustainability and turning it into a tool of business control and growth that projects an image of corporate social responsibility - is proving to be a powerful strategy for corporations in a rapidly globalizing economy marked by financial turmoil and a need for continual strategic repositioning.

It is also enhancing the credibility and influence of these companies in states, in civil society, in supply chains, and in retail markets.

And it is shifting the power balance within the global political arena from states as the central rule makers and enforcers of environmental goals toward big-brand retailers and manufacturers acting to use “sustainability” to protect their private interests.

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