Sustainability and the human/nature connection: a critical discourse analysis of being “symbolically” sustainable
de Burgh-Woodman, H., & King, D. (2012). Sustainability and the human/nature connection: a critical discourse analysis of being “symbolically” sustainable. Consumption Markets and Culture, 16, 145-168.
Environmental sustainability as a social and marketing discourse has gathered momentum since the 1990s, forcing companies and consumers to consider how to apprehend this shift. However, this has proved to be challenging, given that sustainability itself remains a fuzzy concept. This paper argues that this fuzziness resides in the impetus for sustainability itself, suggesting that our concern for the environment is driven by an existing, historically embedded sense of human/nature connection rather than a concern for future decimation as typically thought. This paper performs a critical discourse analysis of Toyota's hybrid car website, showing how their discourses of human/nature connectedness and technological innovation draw from, and build, their participation in the sustainability conversation. It is argued here that Toyota's technology/ethical consumption discourse constructions are underpinned by the mobilisation of a “human/nature connection” that offers explanatory purpose as to why we should care about sustainability in the first place. The discourse analysis offers details on how Toyota has created an evocative campaign that tacitly connects with the broader social concern for sustainability while eliding the complications of its own position in this concern. The paper concludes that Toyota's marketing campaign provides an example of how the human/nature connection underpins or provides motivation for sustainability but also works to obfuscate sustainability as actionable agenda as a result.