Eco-Business: A Big-Brand Takeover of Sustainability: Books

By Szmigin, Isabelle | Times Higher Education, April 4, 2013 | Go to article overview

Eco-Business: A Big-Brand Takeover of Sustainability: Books


Szmigin, Isabelle, Times Higher Education


Eco-Business: A Big-Brand Takeover of Sustainability. By Peter Dauvergne and Jane Lister. MIT Press, 208pp, Pounds 17.95. ISBN 9780262018760. Published 4 April 2013

Anyone reading this book who thought that sustainability was the preserve of small, high-minded companies concerned with the impact of their production methods on people and the planet will be quickly disabused. As Peter Dauvergne and Jane Lister make clear in their opening pages, what they call eco-business is the takeover of the concept of sustainability and its use as a business tool for control and growth, aiming for sustainability of the business first and the planet second. The objective, they say, is to efficiently control supply chains to navigate the globalised world economy with the main aim of increasing consumption. This is the overarching theme of this book, told in very precise detail in six chapters that consider the politics, production, marketing, supply chain, management of resources and governance of big business in the eco- market.

Overall, the authors' main objection is with the companies' motives in the pursuit of sustainability. Certainly in the opening chapters the authors appear ideologically opposed to the idea that big business can achieve both social responsibility and the maximisation of profits, although this is later tempered somewhat. At times, reading this book feels like being at the Mad Hatter's tea party; confusing in terms of the argument at least, although I think that this is probably for the best of reasons, namely that the authors themselves are grappling with the conundrum that is eco-business. On the one hand, they criticise the manufacture of products with fewer resources and less energy and waste as a means of lowering costs and increasing profits, and on the other, they seem to be commending the move by businesses to deal directly with suppliers, giving advice and technical assistance to improve the quality and security of the food supply. Of course, this last concern may sound rather hollow to European consumers still reeling from the horsemeat issues of recent months and the fulsome mea culpa of food retail giants in the national press. …

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