The Future of Business Studies and the Environment

In Companion to Environmental Studies, Martina Linnenlueecke and Tom Smith consider the changing role of business studies and the environment. New global compacts on mitigation, adaptation, and support of climate change impacts have identified the need to consider the role of businesses not only in regards to their harmful impacts on ecosystems, but also in recognition of the need for businesses to adapt to changing conditions for their own survival. Business studies has emerged to consider the actions businesses can take to minimize impact and access climate change ‘opportunities,’ such as green technology, resource efficiency, and energy-saving programs.

The authors suggest the field emerged from the global demand that states and businesses act morally, using their power to make changes that benefit those who are most at risk during climate change. Businesses, Linnenlueecke and Smith suggest, take the view that corporations exist to create value-  business that does not add value will either be forced to change or cease to exist. We are experiencing a change in the collective understanding of value, and business studies is reflecting this, becoming more interdisciplinary in scope.

The authors frame conscious businesses as the end all be all- not only are they stopping harmful behavior, but they are creating solutions to both solve negative impacts and profit off them. A key component missing from the article was thoughtful consideration to the potential pitfalls of business adopting this behavior- If large companies own green technology, who has access to it and what are the prices? How do we verify that businesses are reporting achievements correctly? Does change to a system still based in profit and increasing production solve any problems, or simply buy more time? If businesses step in to take the burden of climate change on, what is the role of the state? How is sovereignty impacted?

I believe change must be taken from various angles, and businesses are no doubt part of that. However, all solutions should also be critically assessed, with both pros and cons considered. This article relies too heavily on descriptors of businesses and environment studies rather than contextualizing it in reality.

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