When studying for a doctoral degree (PhD), candidates submit a thesis that provides a critical review of the current state of knowledge of the thesis subject as well as the student’s own contributions to the subject. The distinguishing criterion of doctoral graduate research is a significant and original contribution to knowledge.
Once accepted, the candidate presents the thesis orally. This oral exam is open to the public.
This dissertation investigates the meanings and practices of corporate climate responsibility (CCR), with a special focus on greenhouse gas (GHG) accounting. Insufficient climate regulation has given rise to many fragmented options for corporate climate action. This enables inconsistent and strategic uses of climate practices, consequently impinging on effective climate mitigation and understandings of corporate climate impacts. I address these issues within the three manuscripts of this dissertation. The first manuscript improves our understanding of CCR by identifying four frames in which CCR is conceptualized and determining whether each frame aligns with a social justice perspective on responsibility. The second manuscript addresses the gap in company-level emissions data resulting from incomplete GHG reporting. We train three machine learning models to predict company-level Scope 1 emissions and use the best model to estimate global emissions from public companies. The third manuscript investigates whether companies are strategically delineating their organizational boundaries according to different consolidation approaches when conducting GHG accounting. The first manuscript demonstrates that CCR is conceptualized according to scientific, social, legal, and economic frames. We find that the scientific frame is most aligned with a social justice perspective on responsibility, while the economic frame is least aligned. According to these insights, we provide recommendations for a new and comprehensive understanding of CCR. In the second manuscript, our best model shows an improvement in prediction accuracy compared to a benchmark study. We estimate that emissions from public companies are 20% (10.5 GtCO2e) of global GHG emissions in 2021. We also find that reporting companies make up 89% of global corporate emissions, implying that high emitters are already reporting their emissions. The third manuscript results suggest that companies are not using consolidation approaches strategically. However, companies are not transparent about why they choose or change their consolidation approaches. Altogether, this research highlights the need for a common understanding and adoption of CCR and the climate practices which define it. In doing this, we help guide companies and policymakers to prioritize certain climate practices over others. While companies must continue to report their emissions and be more transparent about their accounting methodologies, an increased focus should be placed on implementing climate management systems that would facilitate real decarbonization.