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The rapid growth in carbon disclosure in recent years represents a major success in the struggle to build awareness and action on climate change. The growth of carbon disclosure is the result of three core drivers: regulatory compliance, pressure from non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and managerial information systems intended to facilitate participation in carbon markets, reduce energy costs and manage reputational risks. In this essay, we argue that the strategies pursued by ‘institutional entrepreneurs’ have played a key role in the successful institutionalization of carbon disclosure by bringing together companies, NGOs and government agencies. The Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), in particular, has displayed strategic skill in presenting the project in ways that appeal to multiple stakeholders and building broad legitimacy for reporting standards. Despite the rapid uptake of carbon disclosure, there are some troubling questions about the trajectory along which the institution is evolving and its ultimate impact. Tensions exist between two ‘institutional logics’, a corporate logic of carbon risk management and carbon trading, and an NGO-oriented logic based on transparency and accountability. We argue that the field is drifting toward a more corporate logic, and that while this enhances the diffusion of disclosure, it also weakens it as a tool for driving the substantial cuts in greenhouse gas emissions needed to address climate change. Our analysis also highlights that building new institutions requires not just discursive strategies to frame issues in a particular way, but also political and economic strategies to construct an organizational coalition and a ‘business model’ for the new institution


SAGE Publications


Copyright © 2011 The Authors



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