The Environmental Switch from Corps to Us

Here is a press release for an academic study titled “An Inconvenient Truth: Does Responsible Consumption Benefit Corporations More Than Society?”

The authors [Markus Giesler, Ela Veresiu] identified a process that shifts responsibility from the state and corporations to the individual consumer.

 That’s bound to spark interest.

When businesses convince politicians to encourage responsible consumption instead of implementing policy changes to solve environmental and social problems, business earns the license to create new markets while all of the pressure to solve the problem at hand falls on the individual consumer.

Like a shell game, responsibility is gently shifted to the individual rather than remaining with government and corporations. This shift leads to the belief that government can’t (or won’t, or perhaps even shouldn’t) manage the competing interests of economic and environmental players. The authors defined three steps in the process:

First, economic elites redefine the nature of the problem from political to one of individual consumption (for example, global warming stems from consumers failing to cultivate a sustainable lifestyle). Next, economic elites promote the idea that the only viable solution is for consumers to change their behavior. Third, new markets are created in order to turn this solution into a material reality (eco-friendly light bulbs, hybrid automobiles, energy efficient appliances). Finally, consumers must adopt this new ethical self-understanding.

And, of course, the corporations can greenwash their images while making money from the new “responsible” consumers' purchases.

Seems like close kin to socializing risk and privatizing profit. 

Co-author Ela Veresiu writes that responsible consumption (and this sure doesn’t sound like Vermont) is widely understood as being detached from governmental process. The opposite is true, she maintains. Responsible consumption requires its converse: the active management of consumers as moral entrepreneurs. Just from the press information available, the driving force they see for this “active management” process, whether market forces, government or 'groups' of individuals isn’t clear.

At an inconvenient price of $14.00 a download I am not going to see the study any time soon. This price at least shows that the study’s authors are skilled at monetizing their paper and creating a market to manage consumers.

5 thoughts on “The Environmental Switch from Corps to Us

  1. Yes; everything ends up benefitting corporations more than society.

    Whatever we’re talking about, if corporations don’t get the lion’s share of benefits, its dead in the water.  We have the durable myth of “Free” Market Capitalism to thank for that, too.

    You’re certainly pegged the authors:

    the study’s authors are skilled at monetizing their paper and creating a market to manage consumers.

  2. “The active management of consumers as moral entrepreneurs.”

    A refreshing antidote right now is the defense of true “moral entrepreneur” Artie T. Demoulas by the staff and customer base of Market Basket grocery stores.  We always stop at the Warner NH Market Basket store on our way home from Maine, and have found happy employees (who wear their years of service proudly on their nametags), great selection and prices, and terrific service.  Some folks here in Central VT drive there to shop–which is how good capitalism should work.  I hope the stores haven’t been mortally wounded by the greedy board and stockholders.

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