The Paradox of Power in Sustainability

As a society we often say terms like "business wants (fill in the blank here)." Saying "business" wants one thing is like saying all Italian-Americans want one thing or all men want the same thing. There are lots of businesses with lots of leaders who see the world through all kinds of lenses. Over the last few weeks I have felt more hopeful than ever as I work with large corporations on sustainability that they are making great strides to put sustainability and environmental management systems in place. The pressure to do this is coming from two places primarily.

  1. Investor requirements that companies disclose emissions to the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) and thereby show their potential financial risk associated with climate change.
  2. Large OEM's and retailers like Walmart, IBM, Proctor and Gamble, Nike and a slew of others are requiring their suppliers to implement environmental management systems and report to the CDP.

Standards like the Electronics Industry Citizens Coalition - Code of Conduct (EICC-CoC) and the Walmart Sustainability Scorecard are deep in their requirements and if they get implemented with some real teeth will do far more than any other government program could.

Then, on the way home I listen to the news. I see that some of the largest and most powerful corporations are still using short term thinking and their deep pockets to push lawmakers into setting up policies that may help a quarterly report but continually put us behind the rest of the world in clean economy of the future.

In his excellent article "The Paradox of Corporate Power" author Jo Confino wrestles with the paradox that the most powerful in the world (the rich corporations) are simultaniously doing more than anyone to help and hurt the cause of sustainability. In the end it feels like he finishes optimistic, at least that's how I like to see.

See the full article here: