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New Regimes of Responsibilization: Practicing Product Carbon Footprinting in the New Carbon Economy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Jim Ormond

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-448
Number of pages24
Issue number4
Published1 Oct 2015

King's Authors


This article discusses how by voluntarily adopting new dimensions of corporate responsibility-for the greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions generated by its products-global retailers not only position their organizations as responsible in the battle to win the hearts, minds, and wallets of their consumers, but also articulate a new solution for the mitigation of climate change aligned with their commercial interests. As part of this solution, retailers (and other brands) reimagined how GHG emissions should be allocated-shifting from a productionist-based to a consumptionist-based perspective-and redefined what they are responsible for and what their supply chains must care about. The article argues that the complexity involved in engaging tens, hundreds, or even thousands of individual organizations across numerous products' supply chains means that requirements to measure and reduce a product's carbon footprint cannot, and are not, simply pushed down a supply chain. Rather through a confluence of the practices of translation, observation, and normalization retailers are creating, fostering, and articulating new regimes of responsibilization within which actors across successive tiers of a product's supply chains must measure, monitor, and reduce their own carbon footprints independently, conscientiously, and diligently, thereby enabling retailers to achieve carbon reductions at a distance. Seen through the Foucauldian-inspired lens of the technologies of the self and self-government under neoliberal governance regimes, this article suggests that, through the control of what is in a product's carbon footprint, how this should be measured, and how it should be reduced-what are called here carbon truths-global retailers are working to consolidate their socioeconomic powers as sustainability leaders that fundamentally direct society's response to, and mitigation of, climate change.

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