This article develops a mapping tool for how corporations can approach the ethical aspects of climate change based on a literature survey. Literature on this topic tends to focus on the instrumental drivers for businesses, leaving the ethical issues aside. We seek to compensate for this lacuna by suggesting a spectrum of approaches that business corporations adopt in response to climate change, making the ethical orientations explicit. The critical issue of the climate agenda is whether business communities can sufficiently contribute to absolute targets for climate mitigation. In order to avoid charges of greenwashing, business corporations need to be engaged with absolute targets, such as the 1.5 °C target of the Paris Agreement. Moreover, they need to be politically engaged as corporate citizens in order to mitigate climate change in partnership with state and civil society organisations. To provide a test of the proposed mapping tool, we present a case study based on interviews and a survey of sustainability reports (2007–2017) conducted at three Danish energy firms. We conclude that the case study confirms a wide range of corporate responses to climate change, spanning instrumental approaches like the natural-resource-based view, to also include more normative aspirational approaches such as corporate citizenship and political CSR. Furthermore, the mapping tool suggests also including green conservatism and systemic-critical views. Finally, the article discusses how sustainability managers handle the ethical dilemmas of responding to climate change, as well as the limits of the research design, and future prospects and issues raised by the study.
Bibliographical notePublished online 6 November 2019.
- Corporate environmentalism
- Climate ethics
- Corporate citizenship
- Political CSR