Eco-Business: A big-brand takeover of sustainability

Professor Peter Dauvergne, International Relations and Director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia

Co-presented with Sydney Environment Institute and the Sydney Network on Climate Change and Society, the University of Sydney

12 August
After decades of mostly greenwashing efforts, big-brand companies like Walmart, Nike, Coca-Cola and McDonald’s are now competing surprisingly hard to position themselves as “sustainability leaders” – adopting farsighted goals and driving change through core operations and global supply chains. On the surface the prospects appear enticing and benefits are certainly resulting. Governments and advocacy groups are eagerly partnering to lend the companies credibility and leverage the governance potential. Yet, as Peter Dauvergne and his co-author Jane Lister reveal in their 2013 book Eco-Business, big-brand sustainability is bringing new and perhaps even greater dangers for people and the planet.

In a compelling account rich with intriguing evidence and important warnings, this book exposes how brand companies are taking over the concept of sustainability for “eco-business”: turning it into a tool to enhance corporate control and growth as well as project an image of corporate responsibility. In a globalizing world economy fraught with volatility and risks, eco-business is proving highly valuable for business, but fundamentally limits the potential for deeper solutions – ones that challenge and transform rather than reinforce and legitimize mass retail and discount consumerism.

Peter Dauvergne

Peter Dauvergne is Professor of International Relations and Director of the Liu Institute for Global Issues at the University of British Columbia. He has published 12 books and over 50 articles on the politics of global environmental change, with current research projects on sustainable consumption, corporate social responsibility, and social movements. His first book, Shadows in the Forest, won the International Studies Association's 1998 Sprout Award for the best book in international environmental affairs. His 2008 book, The Shadows of Consumption, won the Gerald L. Young Book Award in Human Ecology. His other books include Eco-Business (2013, with Jane Lister), Timber (2011, with Jane Lister), Paths to a Green World, second edition (2011, with Jennifer Clapp), and Protest Inc.: The Corporatization of Activism (forthcoming, 2014, with Genevieve LeBaron).