Blue Skies, Green Industry: Corporate Environmental Reports as Utopian Narratives

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Corporate environmental reports offer company narratives that seek to change their image with regards to environmental connections. Reports support a combination of free-market capitalism and environmental stability.

Environmental Reporting

Corporate environmental reports do not need to follow any structured guidelines akin to those used in financial reporting. Environmental issues are distributed electronically for maximum saturation. Although corporations are required to send specified reports to the government, the information from said reports need not appear in reports for shareholders and the general public. Corporate environmental reports are seen as issues management tools, which are used to guide public opinion about the company’s image.

Common Frameworks and Issues

Despite a lack of requirements for environmental reports, corporations are attempting to build shared structuring protocols for their public reports. The outlines focus on environmental accounting practices and a communal framework for environmental information. Environmental accounting is the source of the information that fills corporate reports. Thus, accounting practices are central to the collection and distribution of environmental statistics, although there are mixed opinions as to their isolated importance in swaying general opinion. Even with established standards, company acceptance of such policies is extremely varied simply because operating under said standards is completely voluntary. Without a general agreement to operating standards it is impossible to compare the environmental information provided by different corporate reports. The environmental reports are left simply telling the viewer about the company’s efforts, without providing significant certification to back it up. The environmental reports generally do a poor or nonexistent job of explaining company violations of environmental policies. They rarely report their findings on National Public Radio. Corporations provide a variety of justifications that fill their reports, while avoiding acknowledgement of poor environmental performances.

The Utopian Narrative

Utopias are societies in which critical and difficult problems are solved, providing dream worlds where nothing is unsolvable. Narratives describe the locales with complete connection to reality, often tactically dodging questions and information that might disrupt the situation. Corporations elicit utopias to approach the problems of environmental sustainability and proper practice. The companies propose that their practices, regardless of actual effect, can coincide with a protection and continuation of the resources used. Reports include unqualified absolute truths that describe a company’s approach to environmental and social policies. Like much of the report’s rhetoric, the focus is on images rather than actual physical proofs. Verbal descriptions elicit the imagined utopia and attempt to provide the necessary proof for its existence.

Corporate Environmental Ideology

Reports focus on three key aspects, good environmental practices and good business practices are one in the same, environmental collaboration is reducing the damage of various industries, and that government regulatory agencies are peers rather than overseers in environmental discussions. The second point tactically avoids discussions of whether certain industries should exist in a sustainable environment. Reports are clearly self-serving which points to corporations growing concerns about social perceptions. Companies are seen as villains, and their capitalist approaches only strengthen their position in the public’s eye. Corporations struggle to self-promote even with political assistance because the capitalist image is heavily affected by public opinion and interpretation. The public remembers only the largest environmental news at the corporate level, often leveling claims in a general manner. The issue becomes not only one’s environmental actions, but the exposure of such actions as well. A utopian style for reports allows corporations to affect general perceptions about their company’s policies and beliefs, which directly mitigates issues of public opinion.


Companies have held back on updated environmental reports, for a variety of reasons. The reports that do exist continue to include open ended standards for factual and dialogue usage. There is also media bias depending on which outlet is used. The overarching tactic has been to push the visionary quality of reports, associating corporate goals with broad and poorly defined social responsibility. Utopian qualities help companies deflect questions about past failures, as the future now aligns corporate and environmental goals into one objective. Reports dodge accountability by providing the viewer with a cause, and hopefully a strong enough narrative to make the public associate accordingly.