Corporations, Consumerism and Culpability: Sustainability in the British Press

Publication authors

Kristina Diprose, Richard Fern, Robert M. Vanderbeck, Lily Chen, Gill Valentine, Chen Liu, Katie McQuaid


Sustainability and sustainable development are prominent themes in international policy-making, corporate PR, news-media and academic scholarship. Its definitions are contested, however sustainability is associated with a three-pillar focus on economic development, environmental conservation and social justice, most recently espoused in the adoption of the UN Sustainable Development Goals in 2015. In spite of its common usage, there is little research about how sustainability is represented and refracted in public discourse in different national contexts. We examine British national press coverage of sustainability and sustainable development in 2015 in a cross-market sample of national newspapers. Our findings show that key international policy events and environmental and social justice frames are peripheral, while neoliberalism and neoliberal environmentalism vis-à-vis the promotion of technocratic solutions, corporate social responsibility and “sustainable” consumerism are the predominant frames through which the British news-media reports sustainability. This holds regardless of newspaper quality and ideological orientation.