Regardless of the enormous risks to humanity, the three-decades-long international effort to administer sustainability has seen an intensifying process of governance privatization, coupled with a failure to reduce global emissions. Bridging neo-institutional and business-class theories, I examine the mobilization of a class-wide coalition of major transnational corporations on a long-term institutional project to shape environmental governance in the mold of a private, market-based institutional logic. Drawing from analyses of the structure, discourse, and activities of the transnational business association World Business Council for Sustainable Development circa 1990–2010, I show how the WBCSD unites the CEOs of some of the largest transnational corporations into a cohesive leadership group, mobilizes the corporate resources they command, and coordinates global-scale, durable institutional creation work. The project’s purpose is to crowd out the state-based logic of environmental governance, thus restricting the development of market-incongruent sustainability organizing. The article contributes to the understanding of societal-level, large-scale institutional work by examining the key agency of business classes in such work, the organization of large-scale work through multifaceted projects, and its orientation to set institutional logics through diverse creation of institutional forms that embody the logic.
- climate change
- institutional work