Corporate corruption of the environment: sustainability as a process of compromise


  • The authors would like to thank the editors and the anonymous reviewers for their constructive and helpful comments in revising this article for publication. Research for this article was funded by Australian Research Council Discovery Grant DP110104066. Authors are listed in alphabetical order.

Corresponding author email:


A key response to environmental degradation, climate change and declining biodiversity has been the growing adoption of market principles in an effort to better value the social good of nature. Through concepts such as ‘natural capitalism’ and ‘corporate environmentalism’, nature is increasingly viewed as a domain of capitalist endeavour. In this article, we use convention theory and a pluralist understanding of social goods to investigate how the social good of the environment is usurped by the alternate social good of the market. Through analysis of interviews with sustainability managers and corporate documentation, we highlight how organizational actors employ compromise to temporally settle disputes between competing claims about environmental activities. Our findings contribute to an understanding of the processes of empirically grounded critique and the under-theorized concept of compromise between social goods. Rather than protecting the environment, the corporate promotion of sustainability facilitates the corruption of the social good of the environment and its conversion into a market commodity.