307.1 Corporate elite organizations and the legitimization of carbon markets: An analysis of the environmental policy-planning network 1996-2010

Thursday, August 2, 2012: 12:30 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
J.P. SAPINSKI , Sociology, University of Victoria, Victoria, BC, Canada
Carbon markets represent a case in point for the study of the organization of neoliberal markets. Like any market, they have been created and are being regulated by a variety of public and/or private organizations interested in their effective functioning. Carbon markets rely on a specific discourse, corporate environmentalism, according to which environmental destruction is best avoided through market mechanisms and the privatization of environmental goods. It is this discourse that asserts the legitimacy required for the creation and continued functioning of carbon markets.

This paper considers environmental corporate policy groups, such as the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and the G8 Climate Change Roundtable, as sites of production and dissemination of corporate environmentalist discourse on which carbon markets ultimately rest, and looks at the corporate-policy network in which they are embedded. I first present results from a repeated cross sectional analysis of the links between environmental policy groups and the world's 500 largest corporations between 1996 and 2010. Using a judgement sample of major policy groups, I discuss the evolution over time of these organizations' structural network position relative to individual corporations, the different sectors of industry they belong to and the geographic location of their headquarters. I then present a discourse network analysis that examines the main conceptual categories used by the sampled policy groups to support and legitimize carbon markets, and establish a parallel with the corporate-policy network’s structure.

This analysis sheds light on the process by which market-legitimizing discourses are constructed. It reveals the major sectoral and geographical lines of fraction between firms, according to their interests in carbon markets. Moreover, it emphasizes the crucial role of environmental policy groups in mediating between the contradictory interests of global corporate elites by developing a response to the climate crisis founded on the expansion of market mechanisms.