I guess I've always been a bit of an optimist, and you have to be in this game. I've got hope in terms of human ingenuity that we will trade our way out of this somehow.(Interview, corporate sustainability manager, March 2010)
In the space of a decade, climate change has materialised within public discourse as both an existential threat and a topic of major political disagreement (Hoffman, 2012). Perhaps not surprisingly, future interpretations of a climate-shocked world prompt strong emotional responses, whether our concerns focus on the extinction of animal species, humanitarian disasters, geopolitical conflicts, or the well-being of our society, our local community, or our children (Hansen, 2009; Hulme, 2009).
A simple perusal of media coverage reveals how the issue has become increasingly polarised and emotion-laden for all, from those who promote urgent policy action to those who reject the climate crisis as a serious danger (Boykoff, 2011; McCright and Dunlap, 2010). Witness the ever more emotive statements from both sides, whether in the form of shock videos from NGOs such as Greenpeace, Plane Stupid, and 10:10 (Vaughan, 2010), heartfelt appeals from youth and community leaders during UN climate negotiations (Vidal, 2012), the anger of the denial movement at anti-government rallies, or the pronouncements of politicians, commentators, and businesspeople for and against the regulation of carbon emissions; and witness, too, the fervent responses evident in the social disengagement and disavowal of an issue that some think too large, too complex, and too much of a hazard to existing ideologies (Norgaard, 2006). In short, climate change discourses can be associated with new norms of emotional expression in which passion, rage, fear, and hostility, as well as apathy and ambivalence, are central features of social debate (Dörries, 2010; Moser, 2007).
In this chapter we explore how emotions are mobilised within corporate responses to climate change. The idea of emotionality is often downplayed in business settings, but emotions are as much a part of company life as they are any social setting. We argue that the promotion of corporate environmentalism is itself inherently emotional, given that firms must not only navigate the highly charged discourses on climate change but also try to create positive interpretations of a future in which their solutions are endorsed, embraced, and celebrated.