As international governments are failing to respond adequately to climate change, the private sector is taking on the burden of environmental responsibility.
By Avery Phillips
BOISE, IDAHO, 28 December 2017 — The future of our planet does not look good, ecologically speaking — but that shouldn’t be news to anyone. Climate scientists are warning that Earth could be hotter as early as 2100, and 2017 is seeing global carbon emissions rise for the first time in 3 years.
Despite international efforts, current projections for global warming are bleak. Governments can only regulate so much, and America continues to avoid meaningful legislation. Scientists and citizens are now turning to alternative sources of change.
The World Resources Institute began forecasting the private sector’s role in climate response in 2013. Climate change is moving faster than international parties can mitigate, so the burden of adaptation shifts to individuals, communities, and their businesses.
Corporate Social Responsibility
As the responsibility of intervention falls onto private citizens, businesses are afforded a publicity opportunity: corporate social responsibility. CSR is nothing new to public relations strategies, but as climate change makes natural disasters an inevitability, the role corporations play becomes more pronounced.
Most companies have a directive for their community involvement. The idea that being associated with community improvement and positive social change is a solid business strategy, and climate change offers leverage into the hearts and wallets of consumers.
It takes more than just relief donations to make an impression, though. Forbes suggests that consumers are becoming more adept at identifying fraudulence in a company’s response to natural disasters. With all the reports released exposing what happened to your Hurricane Harvey donations, it’s no wonder that businesses must be authentic in their CSR.
Some businesses are virtuous by nature — companies that provide green-enabling products are the future of conscious consumerism. Energy-regulating smart home features and electric cars are slowly but surely making their way into the middle-class market, and you no longer need to be on the forefront of energy tech to enjoy the benefits of solar power.
Other companies don’t provide directly applicable products, but instead, make a commitment in their sourcing, creation, and processing. Patagonia made a name for themselves through anti-marketing encouraging consumers to forego purchases unless they truly needed what they were buying, citing the environmental cost of shipping a single jacket.
Companies not fortuitous enough to be linked with green energy and climate change still benefit from being authentically involved in their community. CSR is a terrific example of how the purchasing power of a consumer can direct the moral compass of a company.
Some companies can use their business model to support disaster relief. Where applicable, donating time to clean up stricken areas, helping institute plans for potential disasters, and being visually present in the community creates investment. For those not disposed to manual labor or logistic planning, being involved in relief events creates a positive public image while coping with the impact of climate change.
Responsibility of the Consumer
As responsibility shifts to the private sector, consumers are given the burden of promoting CSR and green products. As the saying goes, you must vote with your dollar.
It can be daunting to sort through every decision made to ensure that it’s ecologically responsible. It’s convenient to get what’s cheap and easy. Though our disposable-happy culture has contributed to global warming, consumers are ready to work on that.
Shifting consumer goods and corporate engagement gets easier as we cooperatively discern who we should (or shouldn’t) support. It’s easy to pull out your phone and Google a company’s practices, or to make a mental note when you see a corporation or local business engaged in the community.
Use word of mouth to promote upstanding companies among family and friends. Share information to make environmentally responsible decisions easier for everyone, and encourage surrounding businesses to provide ethical choices. Interrupting the trend of climate change cannot be left to government regulations; it will not happen fast enough. Consumers and companies must do their share of heavy lifting.
Even if the future of the planet isn’t emergent news, the shifting tide in how people are responding is — and it just might be more promising.
Bio: Avery T. Phillips is a freelance human being with too much to say. She loves exploring the U.S. mountains of SW Idaho and examining human interactions with the greater world at large. Comment or tweet her @a_taylorian with any questions or suggestions.