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Drilling their own graves: how the European oil and gas supermajors avoid sustainability tensions through mythmaking

Ferns, George, Amaeshi, Kenneth and Lambert, Aliette 2019. Drilling their own graves: how the European oil and gas supermajors avoid sustainability tensions through mythmaking. Journal of Business Ethics 158 (1) , pp. 201-231. 10.1007/s10551-017-3733-x

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This study explores how paradoxical tensions between economic growth and environmental protection are avoided through organizational mythmaking. By examining the European oil and gas supermajors’ ‘‘CEOspeak’’ about climate change, we show how mythmaking facilitates the disregarding, diverting, and/or displacing of sustainability tensions. In doing so, our findings further illustrate how certain defensive responses are employed: (1) regression, or retreating to the comforts of past familiarities, (2) fantasy, or escaping the harsh reality that fossil fuels and climate change are indeed irreconcilable, and (3) projecting, or shifting blame to external actors for failing to address climate change. By highlighting the discursive effects of enacting these responses, we illustrate how the European oil and gas supermajors self-determine their inability to substantively address the complexities of climate change. We thus argue that defensive responses are not merely a form of mismanagement as the paradox and corporate sustainability literature commonly suggests, but a strategic resource that poses serious ethical concerns given the imminent danger of issues such as climate change.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: Business (Including Economics)
Publisher: Springer Verlag (Germany)
ISSN: 0167-4544
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 14 November 2017
Date of Acceptance: 1 November 2017
Last Modified: 07 Jul 2020 11:15

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