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Special Issue "What is Sustainability? Examining Faux Sustainability"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 March 2019).

Special Issue Editor

Guest Editor
Dr. Zachary A. Smith

Northern Arizona University – Department of Politics and International Affairs.
Website | E-Mail
Interests: environment and policy; REDD; natural resource management

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

In their book Sustainability: If It’s Everything, Is It Nothing? (Routledge, 2013), Heather M. Farley and Zachary A. Smith make the point that often what is called sustainability is not sustainable at all. They call this faux sustainability.

Sustainability should help guide policies and practitioners with the means of preserving the environment and the natural capital as well as the relationships between social, environmental and economic systems. Nevertheless, policies are often made with little understanding of how they will be implemented and, often, they are implemented based on false premises. This Special Issue will provide case studies of faux sustainability. It will provide examples of the use of the term sustainability for practices that are not sustainable in the long term. We welcome articles that examine false sustainability in corporate, governmental, and non-profit organisations; individuals; educational institutions or any other sector.

Sustainability science is often focused on quantifying the outcomes of the political efforts in terms of economic growth, environmental degradation or social well-being, etc. In this Special Issue, we invite you to contribute articles, concept papers and reviews that question the very foundations of the sustainability imaginaries and ideologies.

Dr. Zachary A. Smith
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access semimonthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1700 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Policy implementation
  • Sustainability imaginaries
  • Faux sustainability
  • Policy failure
  • Neo-sustainability
  • Greenwashing
  • Non-renewable
  • Unsustainable
  • False advertising

Published Papers (4 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle
Green Gilded Oil: How Faux Sustainability by US Oil Companies is Undermining Neo-Sustainability
Sustainability 2019, 11(14), 3760; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11143760
Received: 7 May 2019 / Revised: 17 June 2019 / Accepted: 27 June 2019 / Published: 10 July 2019
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Abstract
Greenwashing has been a common practice among companies since the 1980s. There are some companies that take that practice to an extraordinary level. These companies create a sustainability report, dedicate pages on their website touting their environmental stewardship, spend money on projects that [...] Read more.
Greenwashing has been a common practice among companies since the 1980s. There are some companies that take that practice to an extraordinary level. These companies create a sustainability report, dedicate pages on their website touting their environmental stewardship, spend money on projects that make them appear “green” and at the same time spend millions of dollars lobbying the government to decrease environmental regulations and stop any plan to curtail carbon emissions. We will call these companies green gilded as they are coated in a thin layer of environmentalism as a means to deceive the public. This paper analyzes some of the largest US oil producers with an in-depth analysis of ExxonMobil and Chevron Corp. It examines the money they spend on lobbying efforts to undermine actual sustainable policy. It looks into their sustainability reports, money spent to limit their carbon footprint, and money spent on environmental stewardship. It also compares the carbon footprint of each company. It analyzes the dangers of green gilding and bilking the public. It defines and describes what a neo-sustainable approach in the oil business would look like. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue What is Sustainability? Examining Faux Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle
Sustainable Development—A Poorly Communicated Concept by Mass Media. Another Challenge for SDGs?
Sustainability 2019, 11(11), 3181; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11113181
Received: 15 April 2019 / Revised: 21 May 2019 / Accepted: 31 May 2019 / Published: 6 June 2019
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Abstract
Thirty years after “Our Common Future” by the Brundtland Commission in 1987, sustainable development remains the only internationally and consensually recognized global development concept. The last major United Nations event—the Rio+20 Conference in 2012—endorsed it by proposing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and [...] Read more.
Thirty years after “Our Common Future” by the Brundtland Commission in 1987, sustainable development remains the only internationally and consensually recognized global development concept. The last major United Nations event—the Rio+20 Conference in 2012—endorsed it by proposing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and their more specific targets and indicators (adopted in 2015). We claim that educators, politicians, and civil society organizations have failed to a large extent in making the sustainable development concept broadly appealing. Among the missing enabling factors are a good narrative (making an extremely complex sustainable development concept comprehensible to all, thereby raising public support), social norms (reflecting commonly held sustainability principles and goals), and sustainability indicators (providing clear information for steering policies as well as for daily decisions). In this paper we focus on the role of mass media (English-written printed newspapers) as an important information channel and agenda-setter, and analyze their modes of sustainability communication. We look into how these media communicate selected key sustainability themes, and how they make connections to the overarching concept of sustainable development. We hypothesize that the media predominantly informs people and sets the agenda by communicating themes of current interest (e.g., gender inequalities), but misses the opportunity of framing them in the broader, overarching concept of sustainable development. This may be a significant sustainability faux (error)—great political intentions need efficient implementation tools, not just political resolutions. To this end, we need well-narrated and framed sustainability themes communicated through mass media to activate the social norms that potentially support societally beneficial conduct. By undertaking an extensive mass media analysis, this paper offers rare empirical evidence on sustainability communication by the global mass media during the last ten years, and identifies the main caveats and challenges for sustainability proponents. As sustainability communication does not yet have its own theoretical framework, SDGs seem to offer a suitable mechanism for this. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue What is Sustainability? Examining Faux Sustainability)
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Open AccessArticle
Virtually the Reality: Negotiating the Distance between Standards and Local Realities When Certifying Sustainable Aquaculture
Sustainability 2019, 11(9), 2603; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11092603
Received: 30 March 2019 / Revised: 29 April 2019 / Accepted: 2 May 2019 / Published: 6 May 2019
PDF Full-text (218 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
To account for the many challenges of increasingly global industries, remote regulation measures such as sustainability standards have become continuously more important as a means to ensure global accountability and transparency. As standard certification is assessed through audits, the legitimacy of these standards [...] Read more.
To account for the many challenges of increasingly global industries, remote regulation measures such as sustainability standards have become continuously more important as a means to ensure global accountability and transparency. As standard certification is assessed through audits, the legitimacy of these standards rests on uncritically evoked norms of auditing, such as independence and objectivity. In this paper, we seek to investigate the claim of these norms as a prerequisite for the audit process of sustainability standards. Based on interviews and fieldwork in the salmon aquaculture industry, we explore how it is possible to concurrently uphold the standard and account for the different conditions of the many local realities. Our findings point to the interactional character of audits, often downplayed for legitimacy purposes, and how this is vital to achieve both ‘distance for neutrality’ and ‘proximity for knowledge production’. We argue for increased transparency concerning the human element of sustainability auditing, thus acknowledging the significance of reciprocal knowledge production when using standards as a route towards sustainability. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue What is Sustainability? Examining Faux Sustainability)
Open AccessArticle
Flying Green from a Carbon Neutral Airport: The Case of Brussels
Sustainability 2019, 11(7), 2102; https://doi.org/10.3390/su11072102
Received: 9 March 2019 / Revised: 29 March 2019 / Accepted: 2 April 2019 / Published: 9 April 2019
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Abstract
The aviation sector is one of the fastest growing emitters of greenhouse gases worldwide. In addition, airports have important local environmental impacts, mainly in the form of noise pollution and deterioration in air quality. Although noise nuisance in the vicinity of airports is [...] Read more.
The aviation sector is one of the fastest growing emitters of greenhouse gases worldwide. In addition, airports have important local environmental impacts, mainly in the form of noise pollution and deterioration in air quality. Although noise nuisance in the vicinity of airports is recognized as an important problem of the urban environment which is often addressed by regulation, other environmental problems associated with aviation are less widely acknowledged. In the climate debate, the importance of which is rising, aviation has remained under the radar for decades. In the present paper, we use the case of Brussels Airport (Belgium) to demonstrate that the local perception of air travel-related environmental problems may be heavily influenced by the communication strategy of the airport company in question. Basing our analysis on publicly available data, communication initiatives, media reports, and policy documents, we find that (1) the noise impact of aviation is recognized and mainly described in an institutionalized format, (2) the impact of aviation on local air quality is ignored, and (3) the communication on climate impact shows little correspondence or concern with the actual effects. These findings are relevant for other airports and sectors, since the type of environmental communication produced by airport companies can also be observed elsewhere. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue What is Sustainability? Examining Faux Sustainability)
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