Ethics and Ecologies: Negotiating Responsible and Sustainable Business in Ireland
Mc Carthy, Elise
Faubion, James D.
Doctor of Philosophy
This dissertation is about the development of corporate responsibility and sustainability advocacy in Ireland. It shows how the biopolitics of corporate responsibility (or CR) and sustainability was rendered—by CR advocates and interested companies—as an ethical ecology, not dissociated from the biopolitical but rooted in it. By ‘ecology’ I mean to refer to the growing consciousness and deliberate cultivation of the interconnections, dependencies and feedback as well as responsibilities between heretofore discreet parts of the social landscape—between business and employees for example. These nascent interconnections—between what we might think of as systems and their environment—were also being presented as compelling ethical striving and to an extent, facilitating it. Importantly this effort was to be directed towards what was coming to be understood by the terms ‘sustainability’ and ‘responsible business.’ Hence, I also used the word ‘ecology’ in the sense of how this argument for ethics had roots in concern for the planet itself and for the very survival of the human race. In a deeper sense then, the matrix or the features of biopower—“ one or more truth discourses about the ‘vital’ character of living human beings;  an array of authorities considered competent to speak that truth;  strategies for intervention upon collective existence in the name of life and health;  and modes of subjectification, in which individuals work on themselves in the name of individual or collective life or health” (Rabinow and Rose 2006, 195)—permeated this concern with sustainability (the ecology or the engagement of systems and environments in the name of ‘life’ as such) and certainly as it was rendered in this arena of business and all that surrounds it, sustainability weighed heavily on ethical quest or government of the self for its potential for success. Furthermore, these logics could be extended into the less biological concern with the sustainability of our ways of life—including communities, businesses and markets; as proxies for vital human bodies, they too were at risk and dependent on changed dispositions to action for their durability.
Ireland; Sustainability; Corporate responsibility; Ethics