By Charlie Fletcher
The conversation surrounding climate change and upon whom the onus falls to take action to prevent and even reverse damage to the environment has always been hotly contested.
The occurrences of extreme weather events have increased dramatically over the past 20 years and from 2000 to 2019, extreme weather events have killed nearly 1.2 billion people and cost $1.63 trillion in economic losses.
This highlights just how important it is for both the individual and massive corporations to do their part in combating climate change. Not only are we suffering from a huge number of preventable deaths, but it is also hitting corporations where it hurts the most: their bottom line. Who, then, should bear the bulk of responsibility when it comes to tackling climate change?
Corporations Need to Step Up
Unfortunately, one of the biggest hurdles when it comes to climate change is getting some of the worst corporate offenders to change their ways. This is largely because oil and natural gas giants are incentivized to delay action in climate change legislation and action as it could eventually result in their entire industries ceasing to exist.
It would seem that for big energy, actionable steps to fighting climate change would be cutting off their noses to spite their own faces as it would immediately affect their profits and, ultimately, largely eliminate the need for their existence.
However, not all corporations are apathetic to the increasingly apparent and tangible dangers of climate change. In recent years, more and more giant corporations have made pledges to increase sustainability through participation in programs like the Science Based Targets initiative and the Carbon Disclosure project, both designed to increase accountability for corporations in their pursuit of sustainability.
Until participation in such programs is no longer voluntary, it is an unfortunate reality that many corporations will continue as they have for decades with little regard to the impact their business has on the global environment.
Some companies are far more optimistic in their ideas towards how to shift their impact to be net-positive not with just the environment, but with every facet of how their business affects the world. Certified B Corporations go far beyond talk and have their entire businesses structured around the positive influence on both the planet and the people living on it.
Becoming a certified B Corporation is no small feat and requires that any given business conduct itself ethically to obtain the certification. The good news for companies considering going for their B Corporation certification is that it has been proven that a corporation can excel and remain incredibly profitable, even when taking care to improve sustainability from the ground up.
How the Individual Can Help
Much of the talk around green initiatives in the public discourse seems to revolve around straw usage and single-serving plastic utensils and containers. While those things are certainly important to long-term environmental impact, individuals have far more power over their impact on the planet than their choice of flatware.
One of the fastest and easiest ways to improve one’s impact on the planet is to evaluate what items in their home use the most electricity, then being mindful of its use to reduce the amount of power consumed, thus reducing the need to produce as much power.
Additionally, people can take charge and come to their employers with ideas to increase sustainability around the workplace. While this might seem like passing responsibility along to the business, taking initiative and setting up programs within a workplace to reduce environmental impact is still something that an individual can do to combat climate change that will likely reach beyond their place of work.
For those looking to engage in more direct action, charitable work for any cause near and dear to their heart is always available. Working as a not-for-profit accountant takes a great deal of skill and schooling, and people from all walks of life and backgrounds also have skills that would very likely be helpful for any green initiative in need of assistance.
Meeting in the Middle
Ultimately, pointing the finger at who should be held more responsible to combat climate change doesn’t advance the cause. Only action on the part of both the individual and corporations will enact lasting change. Individuals can focus on using clean energy, engage in recycling programs, and focus on utilizing public transport or carpooling to do their part. While each act may seem small, when combining multiple ways to go green, the effect can be substantial.
Corporations can also do more to improve sustainability on a larger scale than individuals could ever hope to. Utilizing sustainable suppliers, reducing energy consumption by allowing employees to work from home or providing them with discounts on public transit, and incentivizing carpooling are all great, easily achievable goals for massive corporations.
At the end of the day, while corporations do far more to damage the environment than individuals, the consumer has more power than they realize to correct a corporation’s behaviour. Shareholders and consumers largely dictate how a company operates because they have the power to divest from companies that eschew green initiatives and to wholly avoid engaging in business from companies that have made it clear that they will not engage in sustainable practices.
There is no easy solution to the climate crisis. Across the globe, both individuals and the corporations that they give their patronage to need to work together to slow and reverse the damage that has been done to the environment. The cost is far too great to ignore any longer.