Corporations Green Façade

by | Jul 6, 2022 | Corporate power | 0 comments

Photo by Christine Roy on Unsplash

By Holly Meredith

Corporations and therefore capitalism is incompatible with the rhetoric of environmentalism due to its inherent lack of empathy and constant need to acquire excessively. This is highlighted in the current dominant economic model of neoliberalism, the governments approach to the economy is laissez-faire and try not to interfere. Leading to the ascendancy of the corporation. With this new economic model corporations were able to accumulate such extensive amounts of wealth that corporations soon took over significant influence and power from the government.

As outlined in Bakan’s The corporations rise to dominance ‘courts had fully transformed the corporation into a “person”’[1], this personification of something so intangible has led to much confusion over who holds responsibility when a few ‘bad apples’ make dire mistakes. Although these people are held somewhat to account, jurisdiction often manages to allow them to get off unscathed. This is highlighted during the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill by BP, in 2010. Although the corporation was fined hugely, none of the ‘company men’ who created the culture of risk-taking that led to the oil spill were held to any account, but instead the unlucky few who had been pressured into these acts originally by their bosses that had to attend court. Although the fine was significantly damaging to the corporation, the apparent lack of accountability for individuals is stark and highlights wider issues in modern capitalism. It must also be considered how reliant our economy are on oil and that there is little one can do surrounding oil companies and their destruction because we currently, couldn’t live without them.

Now corporations have been personified to such a high level they are able to take the majority of the blame for peoples own individual actions, that there is little reason for corporations to take any care to how they affect the environment, especially as those at the top can easily blame those beneath them within the hierarchy. However, a recent phenomenon of big businesses making proclamations that they have the world’s best interests at heart, such as Richard Branson saying he’ll pledge £1.6 billion to fight climate change. They have been able to lead people under the guise that corporations want the best for the planet. The concept that ‘more sustainable futures can be secured via capitalist investment’[2] entirely negates the need for capitalism to grow indefinitely. How could an economic system that can’t stop expanding be sustainable? Constantly obtaining and creating unneeded, new objects is incompatible with an environmentally friendly existence. The significance of corporations performance of being ‘green’ is that there is an attempt to get the public on side and the entrepreneur being seen ‘as environmental crusader’ [3].

Corporations have been given an excessive amount of power through Keynesian economics employed by governments across the world, practicing liberalism has allowed corporations to exploit governments through lobbying but also bribery. Through this exchange of power, corporations have somewhat become our legal system and now dominate law making spaces with their money and influence. Corporations have been bestowed social responsibility and are trying to illustrate their capability through the likes of green washing and personalisation of the corporation. This ‘personalisation’ is created by using those who work in the company within advertisements to show their relatability for those lives they affect and unfortunately, it often works. It’s easy to get sucked into the idea that these nonphysical entities do have good intentions and in many ways it’s easier to allow oneself to go along with the façade, but as corporations although contrary to the courts proceedings, are not a person, therefore have no true feelings or awareness of their actions because their only reason to attempt to relate to the wider public is one of own personal gain.

Corporations intentions are difficult to navigate and although wanting to believe there’s some level of empathy it must be recognised what they are, a tool used to create excessive amounts of wealth and inequality. Leading to consequences such as climate change but also poverty. There’s no obvious answer as to what the next step is and the best way to prevent climate change but it certainly isn’t through capitalism.


[1] Bakan, J. (2004) Chapter 1: The Corporation’s Rise to Dominance. In The Corporation: The Pathological Pursuit of Profit and Power. New York: Free Press. P.

[2] Prudham S. (2009) Pimping Climate Change: Richard Branson, Global Warming, and the Performance of Green Capitalism. P.2

[3] Prudham S. (2009) Pimping Climate Change: Richard Branson, Global Warming, and the Performance of Green Capitalism. P.3


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