The environmental business case and unenlightened shareholder value


  • Carrie Bradshaw

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    1. University College London
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    • Parts of this paper were presented at the Environmental Law Section of the SLS Annual Conference at Downing College, Cambridge, in September 2011 and at a UCL Faculty of Laws Staff Seminar in December 2011. I would like to thank the participants of both for interesting and useful discussion. I am also grateful for the insightful observations of two anonymous reviewers, as well as to Dr Douglas Guilfoyle for detailed comments on an earlier draft and Dr Marc Moore for extensive commentary and interesting discussions. I owe particular thanks to Professor Maria Lee, for her generosity with time in commenting on countless drafts. Any errors of course remain my own.

Carrie Bradshaw, PhD Candidate and Teaching Fellow, University College London, Bentham House, Endsleigh Gardens, London WC1H 0EG, UK. Email:


The business case for corporate environmental responsibility is the claim that behaving responsibly makes financial sense. It is impossible to exaggerate the contemporary significance of this claim, not least in legitimising environmental concerns in the corporate sphere. However, the business case is not without significant empirical and normative limitations, as is illustrated by the corporate environmental problem of supermarket waste. This paper evaluates enlightened shareholder value under s 172 of the Companies Act 2006 in light of such business case limitations. It suggests that s 172, by procedurally mandating the business case for corporate environmental responsibility, is a retrograde step which envisions not enlightened, but rather environmentally unenlightened, shareholders.