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Drilling their own graves: How the European oil and gas supermajors avoid sustainability tensions through mythmaking

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-231
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Volume158
Issue number1
Early online date13 Nov 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 30 Aug 2019

Abstract

This study explores how paradoxical tensionsbetween economic growth and environmental protectionare avoided through organizational mythmaking. Byexamining the European oil and gas supermajors’ ‘‘CEOspeak’’about climate change, we show how mythmakingfacilitates the disregarding, diverting, and/or displacing ofsustainability tensions. In doing so, our findings furtherillustrate 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.

    Research areas

  • paradox, climate change, organizational mythmaking, discourse, defensive responses, corporate sustainability

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