Beginning in the 1980s, corporations began participating in voluntary environmental initiatives; this phenomenon has come to be known as corporate environmentalism. As corporate environmentalism has evolved, more and more corporations are beginning to participate and are making voluntary environmental initiatives, working with third-party certifiers, and are partnering with environmental NGOs to improve their environmental performances. For my honors thesis, I analyzed the effect the corporate environmentalism is having on corporations’ impacts on the environment and on the environmental movement. I also investigated different methods of corporate accountability, including environmental NGOs, third-party certifiers or certification schemes, and consumers. Using corporate Global Responsibility Reports and ESG manager database, I investigated the environmental claims and behaviors of Wal-Mart, General Electric, Starbucks, and Whole Foods in order to determine how these corporations are participating in corporate environmentalism and whether these corporations are upholding their voluntary environmental commitments and initiatives and to analyze the various methods in place to hold corporations accountable. My findings indicated that some aspects of corporate environmentalism have been successful, whereas in other areas, corporations are using environmentalism as a way to improve their public image without changing their business practices, subsequently not improving their environmental performances and detracting from the environmental movement. However, this study also suggests that corporate environmentalism is necessary to improve the environmental performances of corporations. Therefore, in order to improve corporate environmentalism, I recommend improving corporate accountability, NGO accountability, and the accountability of third-party certifiers in order to increase transparency and in order to make corporate environmentalism more effective.
Rotner, Emma, "Corporate Environmentalism: How Green is it Actually?" (2016). Environmental Studies Honors Papers. 14.
The views expressed in this paper are solely those of the author.