Crowding out Morality: How the Rise of ESG Has Sidelined Ethical Reflections on Business

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Drawing on extensive case study evidence, this study unpacks sustainability reporting’s evolution from a moral values-based practice towards a financialized value-based one. We argue that this transition can be seen as a commensuration project. We examine the dynamics of this process and its implications for sustainability related outcomes. We find that increased levels of commensuration have moved sustainability reporting away from an original emphasis on morality and values to a focus on strategic value creation for the firm. We theorize this process as a ‘crowding out of morality’ that is enabled by a rigid cognitive framing of social and environmental issues (objectification) and the monetized coordination of relevant social interactions (marketization). We outline implications of our analysis for the scholarly debates on the institutionalization of sustainability reporting and commensuration.
Original languageEnglish
Publication dateJun 2023
Number of pages40
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023
EventLuiss-Wharton International Joint Conference: Assessing the ESG movement. Ethical reflections on ESG and its impact on Business - Luiss Campuses at Viale Romania 32 and Viale Pola 12, Rome, Italy
Duration: 8 Jun 202310 Jun 2023


ConferenceLuiss-Wharton International Joint Conference
LocationLuiss Campuses at Viale Romania 32 and Viale Pola 12
Internet address


  • Commensuration
  • Corporate responsibility
  • Integrated reporting
  • Morality
  • Sustainability reporting

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