Thanks to Obama’s 2014 State of the Union, we now know that climate change is a fact. Though what America is willing to do about it remains shrouded in mystery. The President’s boastful comments about the “success” of his “all of the above” energy plan leaves me dubious. But it’s good to know that while our national policies seem to contradict themselves, America’s corporations aren’t risking another cent on debate.
Some of the world’s biggest international enterprises recently announced that not only is climate change “a fact,” it’s also an economic threat. One that companies like Coca-Cola and Nike aren’t willing to mess around with.
“Increased droughts, more unpredictable variability, 100-year floods every two years,” Jeffrey Seabright, Coke’s vice president for environment and water resources, told the NY Times. “When we look at our most essential ingredients, we see those events as threats.”
Nike learned this lesson the hard way last year, when four of its factories in Thailand were shuttered due to flooding. According to the same NY Times article, the company is also concerned about the threat extreme weather events pose to cotton harvests and, as a result, cotton prices.
As a result, both companies now have policies that help mitigate the effects of climate change on their end product–including water and resource conservation programs and measures to reduce environmental pollution. And they’re not the only ones. Environmental Leader reports that, “Air France, BMW, Hewlett-Packard and Microsoft are also among the 79 global companies leading in climate change performance.”
These decisions are just another example of how important it is to always frame resource conservation arguments in economical terms. We can protest and petition about the wrongness of corporate practices until we’re blue in the face. But connect issues of depletion and pollution directly to fiscal losses, and suddenly they’re all ears.
This reality makes me both happy and sad at the same time. I’m happy because it means that corporations are finally seeing that by adopting policies that protect the planet they’re also protecting their own interests. “You can’t do business on a dead planet,” the saying goes.
But I’m saddened by what this means about humanity–especially here in the developed world. It means that we’re losing our ability to assess value in terms of anything but dollars and cents. While they may encourage the right kind of behavior for a while, economic arguments only go so far. Corporations are incapable of appreciating the beauty, emotion and web of life. And for that reason, we must be ever vigilant, fighting to always put people and planet before profit.
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