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'We can't run... but we can hide...': environmental management as palliative rather than cure

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The resurgence of the environmental fervour of the late 1960's is demonstrated in the new millennium in socio-political, socio-economic and technical realms. One of the predominant expositions of this move towards 'greenness' is found in the corporate arena - demonstrated not least by the ever-increasing volumes of business and management literature on the subject. Environmental Management (EM) has thus been accepted, integrated and even proclaimed as the latest route to competitive advantage by multinational corporations worldwide and smaller companies in alert nation states. Whilst the problems of environmental degradation are not over and some as yet seem indefatigable, we do at least have the problem in hand – or so proponents of corporate environmental management would have us believe. Innovative technologies, imaginative policy measures, improving standards and continuing consumer pressure will in time, yield benign industrial processes and effective material and energy conservation systems. Corporate Environmental Management (CEM) is born, is thriving and will lead us along the path of ecological enlightenment. Or at least, so the powers that be – what Gramsci refers to as the dominant hegemony (Gramsci cited in Levy 1997) - might have us believe. Indeed 'as a narrative, EM tells a reassuring story of redemption and enlightenment' (Levy 1997 p134.) The radical voice, that is one from outside the dominant hegemony might disagree, asserting that CEM has become simply one more element in that hegemony. It becomes another socio-economic construct which preserves the status quo in two related ways: i) companies are being seen to acknowledge environmental concerns and react to them and ii) in so doing the corporate world refutes further, potentially more threatening challenges. Thus CEM becomes only a palliative, that is a mechanism that alleviates the symptoms but does little to cure the disease of environmental degradation. This paper explores this tension between incorporating environmental management into a 'business as usual' mindset and thereby normalising it, and the urge to resist such incorporation in order to maintain sufficient challenge to the status quo.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2006
EventThe Corporate Responsibility Research Conference 2006 - Dublin, Ireland
Duration: 3 Sep 20065 Sep 2006

Conference

ConferenceThe Corporate Responsibility Research Conference 2006
CountryIreland
CityDublin
Period3/09/065/09/06

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ID: 189130