Business environmental discourses at global Earth Summits : comparing Rio and Johannesburg

Awarding institution
  • University of Strathclyde
Date of award
  • 2007
Thesis identifier
  • T11827
Qualification Level
Qualification Name
Department, School or Faculty
  • Studies of global environmental politics have not paid much attention so far to the role and views of the international business community. This thesis seeks to analyse how the business community has approached global environmental issues as discussed at the so-called 'Earth Summits' in 1992 and 2002. The specific focus is to address the question of how the international environmental discourses of business have changed from one summit to another. Are there sufficient empirical grounds to suggest that business is progressing towards a unified and cohesive set of discursive themes and issues? The method used combines qualitative discourse analysis with quantitative content analysis. Combining the 'best of' these two approaches means that a more detailed and rigorous analysis of the content of a large amount of material can be undertaken. This is applied to compare the business discourse at the 1992 Rio and the 2002 Johannesburg Earth Summits. These are two of the key events in the formation of international environmental politics discourses and provide an excellent opportunity to examine the changing role of business over time. The empirical results of this work reveal some continuity, but also major changes within the discourses used by business actors at mega earth summits. There is a high level of continuity not only in the commitment to free market principles but also in the notion that embracing sustainable development is good for business. Looking at changes over time, among the key findings is that business appears increasingly willing to reach accommodation with environmental non-governmental organisations and is keen to overcome its traditionally defensive, reactive role, adopting a proactive approach to shaping the international environmental agenda. While the main elements of a new master business environmental discourse were formulated in 1992, the new approach only become dominant afterwards. By 2002, the discourse had not only been refined and extended, but it had also achieved a much higher level of consensus with the business community taking an active part in the Johannesburg summit. The thesis concludes by discussing the significance of these findings in our understanding of the environmental role of business within global environmental debates.
Resource Type
Date Created
  • 2007
Former identifier
  • 759063