Drilling their own graves: How the European oil and gas supermajors avoid sustainability tensions through mythmaking

George Ferns, Kenneth Amaeshi, Aliette Lambert

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (Scopus)


This study explores how paradoxical tensions between economic growth and environmental protection are avoided through organizational mythmaking. By examining the European oil and gas supermajors’ “CEO-speak” about climate change, we show how mythmaking facilitates the disregarding, diverting, and/or displacing of sustainability tensions. In doing so, our findings further illustrate how certain defensive responses are employed: (1) regression, or retreating to the comforts of past familiarities, (2) fantasy, or escaping the harsh reality that fossil fuels and climate change are indeed irreconcilable, and (3) projecting, or shifting blame to external actors for failing to address climate change. By highlighting the discursive effects of enacting these responses, we illustrate how the European oil and gas supermajors self-determine their inability to substantively address the complexities of climate change. We thus argue that defensive responses are not merely a form of mismanagement as the paradox and corporate sustainability literature commonly suggests, but a strategic resource that poses serious ethical concerns given the imminent danger of issues such as climate change.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-231
Number of pages30
JournalJournal of Business Ethics
Early online date13 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 15 Aug 2019

Cite this