Corporate Globalization and Environmental Protection

Published 15 Mar 2017

At the beginning of the last decade, the environmental debate was ushered into the core of political, socioeconomic and intellectual discourses. At its infancy very few would have been futuristic enough to predict the health of the interaction between corporate globalization and environmental protection. In the few instances where an antagonism was predictable, the picture of the Earth as a life sustaining blue planet suspended in infinite space inspired the nascence of social movements that sought to protect the world from destruction from the depredations of industrialism. Basically, this was the initial clash between corporate globalization and environmental protection.

Currently, the portrait of the Earth as being in a perilous position is resident in almost all corporate logos and advertisements. However, as these understandings are continually displayed to proclaim cognizance of the turmoil in environmental protection, global trade has created a phenomenon where these ramifications of ecological decay are taken as easily fixable by economic, managerial and technological prowess-attributes that are presently at the pinnacle of human achievements (Joshua 177).

This stunning portrait of the relationship of corporate culture and environmentalism is being projected far and wide through globalization. While it may be enticing to be drawn into the wonderful destiny of this relationship, the historical analysis of the same relationship with regard to industrialism manifests that only a legacy of ecological devastation was left. Therefore, as corporate globalization transcends boundaries, traditional nation states, whether they are third world or highly industrialized, are becoming weaker and less relevant in environmental protection.

Simultaneously, more and more nations are experiencing an escalation in nationalism and ethnic divisions resulting in xenophobia, fascist tendencies, fundamentalism and war. These instabilities give way to corporate capitalists and their highly industrialized masters to present themselves as healers of the ills in the world; ecological devastation inclusive. While such a process is historically inevitable, it nonetheless weakens environmentalism. Moreover, in the absence of a coherent alternative in these small nations, the flag less, stateless transnational corporations continue to weave the global webs of commerce, production, culture and finance. As they expand, invest and grow, they mold national and international coalitions and finally influence all environmental protection policies.

For policies to be accepted, such policies have to be in congruence to the supreme corporate purpose: that of the maximization of profits. Through corporate globalization, the planet and its components thereof are being commodified, homogenized and enclosed within the predatory reach of corporate globalization (Speth & Hass 144). Drawing from these underpinnings, it is unlikely that the concept of corporate globalization will foster a world that is based on social justice, democratic participation, healthy communities, non violence, and ecological sustainability.

It is as a result of the penetrating reach of corporate globalization that it is barely a surprise to find global corporatization in environmental crises. Corporations are effective in the control of the global economy by regulating the buying and selling of the worlds’ resources, making decisions on the development and utilization of novel technologies, making decisions on which resources should be exploited as in mining and cutting down of forests as well as the course and integrity of water resources such as rivers, lakes, seas and oceans. This inordinate power, positions them in a determining capacity in present and futuristic planning of social, economic and political developments. These decisions have a direct effect on the global environmental sustainability (Joshua 179).

In 1992, at the Earth Summit held in Rio Di Janeiro, corporate environmentalism came of age. Specifically, this term was used to refer to the melding of economic and ecological globalization under the auspice of a coherent ideology that permitted the reconciliation of multinationals (Joshua 179). In theory and in rhetoric the basis of corporate environmentalism depicted the ubiquitous hunger of profits and corporate growth in an era of growing global competitiveness. The stark realities of that such a globalization causes environmental destruction was either disregarded or deliberately not factored in the equation. What ensued in the aftermath was that there began the building of the public images that portrayed corporate globalization as responsible global citizens with regard to ecological concerns. This is the image that exists in the world even today.

Such melding has been profoundly beneficial to corporatization to the extent that corporate environmentalism has succeeded in partially neutralizing efforts in environmental protection through popular movements, intergovernmental conventions and intergovernmental treaties. In effect these successes increase the powers of corporations on environmental protection. Threats from environmentalists are warded off by the usage of languages and images that proclaim a fight for ecological sustainability. At the extreme, these corporations also push their agenda’s through the inclusion of snippets of ecological sustainability in their strategic plans. The end result is that the whole world has been besieged by corporations that continue to expand the extraction of resources, production and consumption while at the same time fighting for sustainability in development. This scenario does not in any way work in congruence to environmental protection.

With the threats of global recession and dipping profit margins, the rosy ideological stand of using corporate finances in environmental protection reeks of failure. As a mitigating alternative, there have been concerns that civic globalization should be promoted to ensure a more equitable and sustainable global economy and environmental protection (Appelbaum & Robinson 222).

Speth & Hass (2006), concur that local control of environmental protection is necessary and a positive step towards the mitigation of the adverse challenges in environmental protection. For such a strategy to be beneficial, it must be able to curb the influence of corporate power and invent a new shape of economic globalization that is not detrimental to environmental sustainability (p. 144). Additionally, local control requires that nations severe links with the transnationals, since the existence of such nexus not only undermines democracy, equity but also threatens environmental sustainability.

There have been arguments that counter movements to corporate environmentalism will slow down the worlds’ economic growth and consequently cause more human suffering. This argument has been in reference to environmentalists who posit that there is a need for governments to slow down economic growth so as to enable nature to rebound. Such an alternative does not have the potential to succeed owing to the insurmountable obstacles on its way. However, more qualitative alternatives could be used to attain environmental sustainability.

One such alternative is the green capitalist movement which seeks to radically transform production and disconnect it from the purposes of material accumulation. After a successful disconnection the profit motive can be used to encourage resource efficiency. The result is shrinkage of the physical economy but an increase in the quality of life (Milani 3). Such a perspective would not only recognize that human beings possess a responsibility of utilizing their inherent potentials in serving the planet but also promote economic activities that are environmentally sustainable.

As years trudge on the tenets on which corporate globalization stands should be repudiated with novel and better alternatives that are capable of achieving global democracy in a more transparent, accountable and participatory process for the benefit of environmental sustainability.

Works Cited

  • Appelbaum, P. Richard & Robinson, I. William. Critical Globalization Studies. Routledge, 2005. p. 222
  • Joshua, Karlimer. The Globalization of Corporate Culture and Its Role in the Environmental Crisis. In Reclaiming the Environmental Debate: The Politics of Health in a Toxic Culture; By Richard Hofrichter. MIT Press, 2000. p. 177-180
  • Milani, Brian. Designing the Green Economy: The Postindustrial Alternative to Corporate Globalization. Rowman & Littlefield, 2000
  • Speth, G. James., & Haas, M. Peter. Global Environmental Governance: Foundations of Contemporary Environmental Studies. Island Press, 2006. 144-150
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