Climate Change and Global Corporate Responsibility

ram-iyer Aug 5, 2021 | 473 Views
  • Environment

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From unprecedented wildfires across the US, Australia to the extraordinary heat of Europe and the catastrophic rains in Asia, the impacts of climate change is being felt in every corner of the world in 2021.

Climate change is an environmental challenge confronting all continents and countries across the globe with varying degrees of intensity.

Africa, Asia, North and South America and Europe, the adverse effects of climate change have manifested over the years as ozone depletion, global warming, shower of acid rain, extended fires, melting ice, rise in sea level and other extreme events calls for actions at a global scale.

Economics and Impact of Climate Change

Assessing the responsibility of Businesses and economies of the world and their impact to the rising climate change concern is a critical part of the global climate assessment. Most of the time the responsibility is thrown at Governments and Policymakers to bring in the change.

With economics at play and poor governmental commitments, it becomes utmost important that business and corporates across the globe step up to the crisis and shoulder the responsibility of bringing in this change. Below a independent assessment of how this can be put into practice.

Developed countries with large industrial plants and manufacturing companies have experienced the threats of climate change, and their policy-makers are working tirelessly at mitigating the adverse effects of solid waste contamination and carbon/gas emission from industrial plants on people, plants and planet.

However, unfortunately it is the developing countries that are most vulnerable to climate change and associated environmental disasters as they cannot do much to mitigate these threats because of the domestic challenges of poverty, bad governance, terrorism, hunger, diseases and institutional corruption.

A number of affirmative actions and recommendations that had been formulated at national and international level to combat climate change include eco-vigilance, conservation of the flora and fauna, adoption of environment friendly manufacturing techniques, socially responsible investment (SRI) and carbon emission reporting and disclosures. Despite all these laudable policies, environmental abuses engendered by industrial plants and manufacturing companies continue to be a growing concern.

A self-regulating approach that makes manufacturing organisations socially responsible and responsive to environmental issues in their operating countries/communities can be expedient in climate change mitigation, and strengthen existing governmental policies on climate change. Measures taken as part of corporate social responsibility (CSR) as a voluntary obligation for enhancing the social, economic and environmental wellness of society could actually reflect the CSR in its true spirit.

Government and CSR Legislations

From a policy perspective, it is not enough to formulate a CSR policy or development programme. The implementation process must address three dimensions of sustainability—economic, social and environmental, often called the sustainable development triangle.

When we talk of the climate change mitigation , it must be realized that it is in the interest of manufacturing companies to support efforts at curbing environmental risks and threats posed to humans, animals, plants and the ecosystem.

 

Unfriendly manufacturing practices have triggered atmospheric poisoning and water contamination causing avoidable death. Regulatory Authorities and Environmentalists hence need exert the right pressure on the industry to comply with enabling laws and regulatory requirements in their host countries, and reduce emissions of greenhouse gases (GHGs).

 

More than activists, it is the consumers and host communities that can play a pivotal role in ensuring compliance of laws by errant industrial groups. It will also ensure that there are genuine CSR initiatives, rather than mere green washing.

 

Climate change mitigation: need for a Green Policy

An attempt to refocus CSR as a mitigation tool for climate change has led to the postulation of the green theory. Green thinking raises an alarm on the side effects of economic growth on climate change.

Green Theory: Green theory is a novel thinking which articulates the concern for people’s rights, justice, citizenship, good governance and environment. In a sequel to the emergence of green theory, nuances such as green marketing, green products, green policies, green consumerism emerged to convey green lifestyles as well as warning corporations against remaining unresponsive to climate change and environmental degradation which have precipitated crises across the globe. Similarly, environmentalists and ecologists have advocated green thinking for industrialists and manufacturing companies to be accommodated in the processes of production, so as to have a sustainable positive impact on the ‘consumer and the environment in the long run’.

Green theory is very relevant to oil producing regions like the Middle east and Africa, where multinational oil companies continuously flare gases with little regard for the environment, humans, animals, flora and fauna.

 

Green Policies: In support of the view above, the threat of climate change as well as the need for ecosystem sustainability has necessitated a green policy to avert the spill over effects of industrial gases. It is reported that corporations are voluntarily adopting a green policy in the production and designing of environment friendly and green compliant products.

In pursuance of global green policy to manage climate change, the 7th, 8th and 9th principles in the UN Global Compact need to be enforced. The 7th principle made it mandatory for all corporations across the globe to adopt a precautionary approach to environmental management; the 8th principle requires corporations to promote greater environmental responsibility; and the 9th principle expects corporations to deploy environment-friendly technologies in their operations (UN Global Compact - https://www.unglobalcompact.org/). A green policy directed at climate change is a self-regulating action designed by political actors to mitigate the threat that climate change poses to the world.

 

Green Reporting Index: Furthermore, the developed economies have developed an environmental reporting standard called ‘the Green Reporting Index’; as social and environmental indicators for measuring corporations’ green-compliance and responsiveness to environmental issues. Even in the United States, the public thinking about CSR has changed, with investors now insisting on knowing the extent of a firm’s carbon emissions to the atmosphere as per the Carbon Disclosure Project.

In the developing world, it is difficult to monitor CSR through legislation. When legislation related to CSR was sought to be introduced in Nigeria, the Parliament did not approve of the same. However, voluntary action related to declaring the carbon footprint of corporate entities is slowly becoming the norm.

Under the Indo-German Biodiversity Programme, which is an initiative of the Indian government and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), several major Indian companies owing allegiance to the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII) have signed the India Business & Biodiversity Initiative (IBBI) Declaration, committing themselves to valuation of biodiversity and ecosystem services, as also the impact of business decisions on biodiversity. Each of the 16 companies who have signed the declaration so far have pledged themselves to make a public disclosure of the progress made on the areas mentioned in the Declaration (businessbiodiversity.in; indo-germanbiodiversity.com).

 

To Conclude..

Pressure groups and environmentalists can easily leverage CSR as a tool for mitigating the threats posed by climate change through a self-regulating green policy followed by the corporate sector. While, instrumental CSR is desirable, policy makers should be wary of superficial CSR programmes/projects branded as green because they may often be designed for commercial benefits, with little concern for the public or the environment, amounting to what is termed greenwashing.

Secondly, it is best to be wary of over-publicized green postures by manufacturing outfits that use the media to impress the public on being environmentally responsible to enhance patronage for their products.

In truth, CSR needs to be refocused as a tool for climate change mitigation through adoption of green policies involving responsible production techniques, and disclosures of carbon footprint. Green theory can be a relevant perspective for embedding the climate change discourse in contemporary times.

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