In the age of the Anthropocene, there are two diametrically opposed ways of doing business and they are about to go head to head. In today’s highly polarized political climate, the battle lines are being drawn. One side sees increasing shareholder value as the overarching duty of a corporation the other acknowledges that long-term viability is premised on managing a much wider range of variables.
The dark side
There are dark forces pulling the strings behind the scenes and they have a diabolical strategy that is now unfolding according to plan. The fossil fuel industry has used its tremendous economic clout to craft an alternative reality premised on alternative facts. The narrative that they weave obscures the truth to serve their economic agenda.
The massively corrupt fossil fuel industry has taken control of American politics. New campaign finance rules have allowed industry and wealthy Americans to control the Republican party. The fossil fuel industry uses their political power to create governments that put their interests ahead of the public good.
Through institutions like ALEC and the American Petroleum Institute, the fossil fuel industry has unprecedented power. Through a host of front groups, they deride science and use subterfuge to undermine its legitimacy. This is all part of the fossil fuel industry’s war on science.
Big Oil has an extraordinary hold on the levers of democracy. Their crowning achievement was the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling. This infamous decision enabled the fossil fuel industry and other wealthy donors to elect an irrational army of politicians who are intent on killing regulations and ending climate action.
This tragic drama is eloquently explained by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse in the following video:
As promised the Trump administration and their Republican allies are dismantling environmental protections and ending climate action in the US. This anti-regulation contingent is on the side of the planet-wreckers.
While some are working to protect the Earth for future generations others are allowing their wanton greed to imperil the planet and its inhabitants. We have not faced such a pure strain of malfeasance since WWII.
The pursuit of profit alongside social and environmental stewardship is already widely practiced in the United States and around the world. This way of doing business is resistant to corruption and ties profits to the health and well-being of both people and the planet.
Treating employees and consumers well contributes to a company’s value proposition. Exceeding the minimum compliance standards imposed by a given regulatory regime reduces risk. There are also tremendous competitive advantages afforded through the adoption of self-imposed science-based targets. Breaking ground and contributing to the pool of best practices is a great way to get out in front of the competition.
Sustainability increases the long-term viability of a corporation and benefits the bottom line. A number of studies show that investing in sustainability delivers a strong ROI. Sustainability efforts are also crucial to investors who are increasingly looking for corporate risk mitigation strategies. Investors see value in companies that are ahead of the regulatory curve and preparing to manage the consequences of climate change. Investors are attracted to companies that have cogent strategies to handle such things as supply chain disruptions.
There are also public relations benefits. Consumers are increasingly demanding responsible conduct from corporations. Companies that are serious about sustainability are rewarded through customer loyalty and in some cases higher price points and better margins.
Responsible business is good business. With trillions at stake, fossil fuel companies will fight for every petrodollar they can pull out of the ground. Although most agree that our future does not include fossil fuels, billions will be spent on politicians and misinformation in a bid to try to keep the industry alive as long as possible.
Business leaders cannot afford to equivocate, they must quickly decide which side they are on.
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