Climate Change: A Take on Corporations Vs. People

Disclaimer: This is one side of the take on the debate between corporations and people. The relationship between the two is different for each sector, and is rapidly changing.

With the effects of our climate disaster becoming more widely felt around the world, the institutions with the most potential to mitigate the crisis have been handed the responsibility of doing so. The potential halt in climate change they could kickstart brings consumers to question their motives. Why are these companies resisting further time, research and funds regarding climate crisis? The biggest issue is: Why push consumers to lead sustainable lives, when they are not using their own resources and influence to the full extent?

Corporations manufacture almost everything we buy, use, and discard, and they play a significant influence in global climate change. Based on an article by Joshua Axelrod, since the formal recognition of human-caused climate change, a recent analysis found that 100 energy corporations had been responsible for 71% of all industrial emissions- and the energy sector isn’t the only one impacted. The top 15 food and beverage firms in the United States produce about 630 million metric tons of greenhouse gases each year, according to self-reported data. This means that this small group of 15 enterprises emits more greenhouse emissions than Australia, the world’s 15th largest annual emitter.

He goes on to explain how it is critical to understand business contributions to climate change, but it’s even more necessary for powerful corporations to limit their contributions as soon as feasible. Many companies have set greenhouse gas reduction goals, however most of these goals failed to acknowledge total emissions from the goods’ entire lifetime. Axelrod states that “[it] is important [to consider a product’s lifetime] because when a company makes a product, that product requires raw materials that created their own emissions during harvest, extraction, refining, etc. (known as upstream emissions); and when a consumer uses that product, there are further emissions that come from the product’s use and eventual disposal (known as downstream emissions). Failing to account for or address these emissions means that the vast majority of greenhouse gases attributable to corporations and their products are falling outside of well-publicized corporate climate commitments.”

Companies have created a notion of transparency between their values and consumers. By stating and following self-set (and possibly misleading) goals, they- to an extent- manipulate consumers into believing they are more green than they actually are. The “loophole” listed above is an example of a strategy many companies have taken to claim “eco-friendly” titles- without spending the money or time to actually utilize more sustainable methods. 

In-depth look at the impact P&G and a number of its competitors in the tissue sector are having on the world’s remaining intact forests.

The idea of general people purchasing net zero products to eventually end climate change is a stretch, if done alone. The media attempts to redirect their injustices onto the public by preaching “Save the Turtles” and “Don’t use plastic straws”- however, in order to reach the final goal, it’s important for both corporations and consumers to work together- to whatever extent they can. Carbon emissions can be reduced during production and distribution from companies, while the consumers can be more mindful of their own purchases. 

Along with redirecting blame, another common tactic is mixing up phrases. Companies overuse the words “green” and “sustainable” to the point where people view them as virtually the same, allowing companies more room to use them in whichever circumstance is most profitable to them. Here, Michael Lemonick explains the phrases and their differences- “It’s probably more difficult to see nuclear power as sustainable. Unlike the other alternative energy sources, it has long been anathema to environmentalists, largely because of the problem of storing radioactive waste. But nuclear reactors are also a highly efficient source of power, emit no pollutant gases and—with some types, anyway—can be designed to generate minimal waste and to be essentially meltdown-proof. That’s why Patrick Moore, a co-founder of Greenpeace, has become a nuclear booster and why many other environmentalists are beginning—sometimes grudgingly—to entertain the idea of embracing nuclear. Calling it green would be a stretch. Calling it sustainable is much less of one.” (Top 10 Myths About Sustainability ).  

The moral of the story concludes, there is no way to solve a problem if the solution is being handed to someone else. Corporations must advocate and act for their own truly green future, in tandem with the people.

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