As the evidence of climate change mounts, Professor Gail Whiteman says managers must reimagine business. (Text Bennett Voyles)
For some time now, most businesses have put environmental sustainability on an ever-growing list of laudable corporate social responsibility goals. Some have even made serious efforts to achieve that aim.
Who will be the business ‘winners and losers’ from the repeal of the ‘carbon tax’ under Australia’s new conservative Federal Government? This was a question I was asked in a recent interview for ABC TV’s The Business. You can see the resulting report here.
The ‘winners’ in this story should come as no surprise – mining and energy companies -especially those involved in fossil fuel extraction and consumption, which would no longer be required to pay for their greenhouse gas emissions. By contrast, the ‘losers’ were seen as those groups promoting renewable energy and seeking to wean us off our fossil fuel addiction. However, what struck me in participating in this interview are the incredibly short-term time horizons business people frame their decision-making within. ‘Winners’ are defined in terms of the immediate financial savings that result from changed legislation, rather than the strategic implications of continued high carbon emissions in a changing world.
Business corporations are key players in the on-going political debate surrounding climate change. In producing the goods and services of the global consumer economy, corporations are major producers of greenhouse gas emissions. However, corporations can also play a leading role in the mitigation of those emissions through increased efficiencies and the development of new technologies. As a result, the business response to climate change can often appear conflictual. ‘Corporate greening’ and innovation contrast with examples of business obfuscation and the organised funding of climate change denial (e.g. as this recent documentary outlines).