Drilling their Own Graves: How the European Oil and Gas Supermajors Avoid Sustainability Tensions Through Mythmaking
Journal of Business Ethics
© The Author(s) 2017. Open Access. This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made.
This study explores how paradoxical tensions between economic growth and environmental protection are avoided through organizational mythmaking. By examining the European oil and gas supermajors’ “CEO-speak” about climate change, we show how mythmaking facilitates the disregarding, diverting, and/or displacing of sustainability tensions. In doing so, our findings further illustrate how certain defensive responses are employed: (1) regression, or retreating to the comforts of past familiarities, (2) fantasy, or escaping the harsh reality that fossil fuels and climate change are indeed irreconcilable, and (3) projecting, or shifting blame to external actors for failing to address climate change. By highlighting the discursive effects of enacting these responses, we illustrate how the European oil and gas supermajors self-determine their inability to substantively address the complexities of climate change. We thus argue that defensive responses are not merely a form of mismanagement as the paradox and corporate sustainability literature commonly suggests, but a strategic resource that poses serious ethical concerns given the imminent danger of issues such as climate change.
This is the author accepted manuscript. The final version is available from Springer Verlag via the DOI in this record.
Published online 13 November 2017