Environmental Theories Portfolio

Journey to a thesis framework

Environmental Theory is a course Environmental Studies majors take before their thesis course. Theory explores the major theoretical assumptions underlying environmental studies. The course also provides students space to conceptualize their own application of theory to a research question. This portfolio documents work towards building a theoretical framework for student thesis.

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Environmental Theories (ENVS 350)

This course is an “advanced exploration of major theoretical assumptions
underlying environmental studies, including the nature of environment,
environmental knowledge (including role of sciences and humanities),
and environmental problems and solutions. Intensive reading and
writing, class discussions, and project-based application of theory to
contemporary topics (Undergraduate Catalog).


Content Overview: Poster

Communication of honors thesis progress for ENVS 350 and ENVS 499 Fall 2019

Framing Questions

Framing Question: How, if it all, can businesses work for more than profit? The instrumental question seeks to understand what to do about creating a more equitable economic system. We theoretically now know what businesses are doing, why, for whom, and what the current impact is. We can now consider the best way businesses can be a force for good.

Descriptive: What strategies have businesses adopted to be a force for good? This question sets the stage for a research project. We need to know what is happening to know how to investigate it. What are businesses doing to be a force for good in the communities they operate in and along the supply chains of goods they provide. This may occur due to corporate interest, consumer demand, or government regulation. Work may focus on physical infrastructure of businesses, employees, communities surrounding stores, or throughout supply chains.

Explanatory: Where did the desire to be a force for good emerge from? This question considers the drivers responsible for this action- why, in the last half century, have businesses began to act as a force for good? In the neoliberal market, businesses have not been responsible for their impacts on various communities throughout supply chains. So if we have businesses trying to be  a force for good, who is driving that. Is it individual consumers? Workers or CEOS in businesses? non-governmental organizations? One may believe this desire arises from internal forces to truly change the standards within a production system, or from growing consumer demand for ethical products where businesses can capture the public’s dollar by offering ethical goods.

Evaluative: Are these strategies for good an effective method to address social inequalities and environmental degradation occurring in the neoliberal market? This question assesses the benefits and pitfalls of business working for good. The question touches on broader concepts like green capitalism, sustainable growth, and ethical consumerism. Various understandings of these social justice strategies emerge from this framing; business strategies for good as a necessary step in the transformation of our current economy to an equitable market system; as the manipulation of consumer demand for ethical products in order to continue producing and profiting off goods while creating a complacent population; a response to consumer demand for ethical products and making changes to production standards so long as the bottom line is not impacted. The evaluative nature of this question means the question will be answered in various ways. This helps to understand major arguments for and against the specific context.


Topic and Framing Question


Concept Map


Annotated Bibliography


Framework Outline


Final Framework


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