Turning a Deaf Ear to the Citizen’s Voice. Digital Activism and Corporate (Ir)responsibility in the North Dakota Access Pipeline Protest

  • David McQueen
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Governance, Leadership and Responsibility book series (PSGLR)


This chapter explores the impact of the #NoDAPL protest which began in 2016 against the construction of an underground oil pipeline from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to the Patoka Terminal in Illinois. The pipeline passes less than a mile from the Standing Rock Indian Reservation and crosses disputed Sioux land. Protesters, led by Native Americans, have highlighted the danger of potential water contamination and the damage to sacred tribal sites. An alliance of native American Indians, environmentalists and others combined physical occupation and protests with digital activism to mount a strong challenge to the pipeline’s construction. Nevertheless, despite President Obama calling a temporary halt to the work, Energy Transfer Partners continued construction and following weeks of violence and an executive order by President Donald Trump in January 2017 the pipeline is now fully operational.

What contribution can corporate social responsibility (CSR) scholarship make to understanding the issues at stake here, especially in relation to the fossil fuel sector? How has the indigenous tribes’ experience of oil and gas exploration across the continent helped shape the unprecedented scale of support for the ongoing protests. Does the oil and gas industry bear responsibility for charges of ‘environmental racism’? To what extent is CSR in the energy sector impacted by the political system? Is the US government, as signatory to the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), meeting its responsibilities to encourage sustainable corporate behaviour?

This chapter investigates the efforts of Native Americans and their supporters to be heard by the mainstream media and a political establishment wedded to continued fossil fuel use and infrastructure investment. It points to ongoing corporate social irresponsibility and failure to engage in meaningful dialogue with communities affected by the pipeline. It notes links to other social protest movements around the globe and the urgent need to move towards more sustainable and just energy systems.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • David McQueen
    • 1
  1. 1.Bournemouth UniversityPooleUK

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