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Eco-Business: A Big-Brand Takeover of Sustainability

Two experts explain the consequences for the planet when corporations use sustainability as a business tool

By: Peter Dauvergne(Author), Jane Lister(Author)

208 pages, 4 b/w illustrations

MIT Press

Paperback | Sep 2015 | #223470 | ISBN-13: 9780262528337
Availability: Usually dispatched within 4 days Details
NHBS Price: £12.95 $17/€15 approx
Hardback | Feb 2013 | #203866 | ISBN-13: 9780262018760
Availability: Usually dispatched within 4 days Details
NHBS Price: £17.95 $24/€20 approx

About this book

McDonalds promises to use only beef, coffee, fish, chicken, and cooking oil obtained from sustainable sources. Coca-Cola promises to achieve water neutrality. Unilever has set a deadline of 2020 to reach 100 percent sustainable agricultural sourcing. Walmart has pledged to become carbon neutral. Today, big-brand companies seem to be making commitments that go beyond the usual "greenwashing" efforts undertaken largely for public relations purposes. In Eco-Business, Peter Dauvergne and Jane Lister examine this new corporate embrace of sustainability, its actual accomplishments, and the consequences for the environment.

For many leading-brand companies, these corporate sustainability efforts go deep, reorienting central operations and extending through global supply chains. Yet as Dauvergne and Lister point out, these companies are doing this not for the good of the planet but for their own profits and market share in a volatile, globalized economy. They are using sustainability as a business tool.

Advocacy groups and governments are partnering with these companies, eager to reap the governance potential of eco-business efforts. But Dauvergne and Lister show that the acclaimed eco-efficiencies achieved by big-brand companies limit the potential for finding deeper solutions to pressing environmental problems and reinforce runaway consumption. Eco-Business promotes the sustainability of big business, not the sustainability of life on Earth.

"Eco-Business provides a wealth of examples of the business actions of all the big players from Walmart and McDonald's through to Ikea and Unilever: if you want to know how Coca-Cola manages its water supply, this is the book to read. The authors are detailed and precise in issues such as where companies have achieved their own sustainability targets and where they have fallen short – all of them, it seems, promising to do better while aggressively marketing products such as nappies, soft drinks and bottled waters to new consumers around the world."
– Isabelle Szmigin, Times Higher Education

"The message of this book is clear: buyer beware! Peter Dauvergne and Jane Lister provide an intelligent wake-up call, challenging us to be careful of what we ask for. While we may applaud big multi-national corporations for embracing the sustainability mantra, Eco-Business reminds us to keep a critical eye on their actions. Are we the proverbial Nero playing the market-based fiddle while climate change, resource scarcity, over-consumption, and income inequality only grow worse? This book will make you think about that very real possibility."
– Andrew J. Hoffman, co-author (with John R. Ehrenfeld) of Flourishing: A Frank Conversation About Sustainability

"Corporate responsibility or cynical greenwashing? Eco-Business finally provides a voice of deep knowledge and insight into the debate. Neither naive cheerleaders nor ideological critics, Dauvergne and Lister have written the most comprehensive and analytically revealing book yet on the growing power of corporate environmentalism. It is hard to read Eco-Business without a sense of gratitude to its authors for penetrating the complex perils of corporate sustainability."
– Paul Wapner, Professor, Global Environmental Politics Program, American University; author of Living Through the End of Nature: The Future of American Environmentalism

"This well-researched book presents a comprehensive overview of the wide ranging efforts of global brands to improve their environmental performance. It convincingly demonstrates why many global firms have decided that acting more sustainably can improve their competitive position."
– David Vogel, Professor of Business and Political Science, University of California, Berkeley

"This theoretically interesting and empirically rich book examines how economic motivations incentivize firms to adopt environmentally sustainable policies and push them down their supply chains. It challenges environmental politics scholars to explore how businesses can be motivated to contribute to solving environmental problems."
– Aseem Prakash, University of Washington, Seattle

"Eco-Business is an engaging, accessibly written book. It will appeal to both scholarly and less academically oriented audiences. I can easily see it assigned in courses on sustainability (of which there are a growing number) and in business and environment courses, as well as in courses on global governance or globalization."
– Elizabeth R. DeSombre, Environmental Studies Program, Wellesley College

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Peter Dauvergne is Professor of Political Science and Director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia. He is the author of the award-winning The Shadows of Consumption: Consequences for the Global Environment (MIT Press) and other books. Jane Lister, a Senior Research Fellow at the Liu Institute for Global Issues, is a sustainability practitioner and the author of Corporate Social Responsibility and the State: International Approaches to Forest Co-Regulation.

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