Corporate Carbon Footprinting as Techno-political Practice

Ingmar Lippert

Research output: Conference Article in Proceeding or Book/Report chapterBook chapterResearchpeer-review


Attempting to tackle climate change with market solutions hinges on the existence of emissions. We know much about the politics of undoing emissions – via offsets. But where do emissions come from? How are they done? Carbon footprinting seems to be the simple answer. Is this merely a ‘technical’ matter? I explore how emissions come into being; carbon accounting emerges as techno-political practice, fraught with non-transparency.
This chapter argues that ‘successful’ corporate carbon accounting practices efficiently and skilfully ignore significant political implications of the company's practical relation to climate change. ‘Successful’ in this case signifies what matters for the company to compete well in capitalist markets. By examining voluntary carbon accounting at a financial services corporation, I invite an engagement with how the technicality and politics of carbon interrelate in accounting. I ground my analysis in ethnographic fieldwork across 20 months in the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) unit at one of the 50 largest companies globally. Over this period, I supported the CSR unit’s management of their sustainability data, in exchange for overt and explicit research access to the CSR unit’s activities.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Carbon Fix : Forest Carbon, Social Justice, and Environmental Governance
EditorsStephanie Paladino, Shirley J. Fiske
Publication date2017
ISBN (Print)978-1-61132-333-7
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • carbon accounting
  • global relations
  • Ethnography
  • Science and Technology Studies
  • carbon markets


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