Swaffield, J. & Bell, D. (2012) Can ‘Climate Champions’ Save the Planet? A Critical Reflection on Neoliberal Social Change, Environmental Politics, 21 (2), pp. 248-267


Many organisations in both public and private sectors have recognised the challenge posed by climate change and have developed ‘Climate Champion’, ‘Green Team’ or ‘Environmental Coordinator’ schemes. On the basis of interviews with 36 champions in large organisations and analysis of their role as ‘environmental citizens’ in the workplace, it is argued that, overall, the champions are thoroughly embedded in a neoliberal understanding of social change. They conceived of their colleagues (and their employers) as neoliberal agents and accepted that a neoliberal ethic should govern their relations with others. However, when asked about their own motivations for action, champions used a much wider range of discourses. They often appealed to ideas of ‘justice’, ‘responsibility to future generations’ and ‘doing the right thing’. Encouraging climate champions to engage in ‘ordinary moral reasoning’ about climate change with their colleagues might be an important first step to prompting critical reflection on the limits of a neoliberal approach to social change.

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