Stefano Ponte (2019)
New Political Economy. Online first.
Abstract. Tackling climate change and other environmental crises entails a critical reflection on processes and outcomes that are behind sustainability management by business. Sustainability has become a commodity itself, to be traded, bought, sold and managed like all others. How lead firms in global value chains (GVCs) address sustainability issues has become a key competitive element and a source of value creation and capture – facilitating a process of ‘green capital accumulation’. Sustainability management is emerging as a fourth key capitalist dynamic in addition to cost minimisation, flexibility and speed – leading corporations to devise new spatial, organisational and technological ‘fixes’ to ensure continued capital accumulation. Public actors and civil society groups can address this situation, but their strategies need to be informed by the daily practices, power relations and governance structures of GVCs. Sustainability orchestration by these actors is more likely to succeed when: it employs appropriate combinations of directive and facilitative instruments that reinforce each other; improves issue visibility; provides incentives that facilitate the alignment of private and public sector interests; and leverages specific pressure points at key nodes of GVCs.
Keywords: Business, sustainability, global value chains, capital accumulation