Corporations are to blame for the world’s climate emergency

Opinions Editor Noah Wilbur. Griffin Sendek | Multimedia Editor

Noah Wilbur | Opinions Editor


Within the past decade, concerns about climate change have grown significantly as an ever increasing number of scientists and world leaders continue to raise the alarm about the harmful consequences associated with a warming climate.


From rising temperatures and extreme weather events, to higher sea levels and glacial retreat, the overwhelming evidence clearly indicates that climate change is a very real and formidable threat to our global society. We know the threat is real. 


So, we must ask ourselves, who is to blame for our current predicament? Only by identifying the root of the problem can we begin to develop a solution. Despite a deluge of flashy “green” marketing campaigns, corporations are responsible for a considerable portion of the environmental degradation occurring over the past century. 


As surprising as it may seem, the 3,000 largest companies in the world generate over $2 trillion worth of environmental damage each year. Arising from their constant exploitation of natural resources and unsustainable product offerings, corporate entities are historically one of the largest contributors to climate change around the globe. 


According to the 2017 CDP Carbon Majors Report, a mere 100 firms were accountable for more than 70% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions since 1988. The report also discovered that “Over half of global industrial emissions since human induced climate change was officially recognized can be traced to just 25 corporate and state producing entities.” 


Although the oil and gas industries are to blame for the majority of greenhouse gas emissions, a mountain of evidence suggests that mankind’s massive environmental footprint is not only attributable to the energy sector. In fact, the top 15 food and beverage companies in the U.S. produce approximately 630 million metric tons of greenhouse gases per year. As a comparison, this combined amount is more than Australia’s total annual emissions. 


Additionally, in terms of cost of damage to the environment, utilities, basic materials, consumer goods, and industrials all rank ahead of the oil and gas sector. Armed with this knowledge, what actions can we take to urge corporations to end their destructiveness? With the planet on the brink of devastation, consumers must pressure major corporations and multinationals to implement sustainable processes, policies and production methods to reduce their environmental impact. 


Concerned mainly with increasing profits and improving brand reputation, corporations are particularly receptive to changes and trends in consumer behavior. Big business is historically known for bowing down to the public and changing its ways in the wake of consumer pressure. 


In turn, everyday people – like you and I – hold the power to actualize true change by driving sustainability in the business community. Let’s look at some examples. In 2015, Tyson Foods – the largest producer of poultry in the U.S. – began removing human antibiotics from its products. Another example is PepsiCo’s 2015 announcement that it will no longer use the artificial sweetener aspartame in its Diet Pepsi. 


In both cases, two large firms buckled under pressure in response to fierce public outcry. With an intense focus on the top- and bottom-lines, businesses are vulnerable to changes in consumer behavior. Therefore, fearful of losing existing or potential customers, individuals can compel companies to commit to sustainable compliance by making an effort to only purchase eco-friendly products and services. Corporations possess the resources and influence necessary to achieve global sustainability. 


Thus, to create a greener corporate landscape, we must become “conscious consumers” by changing our shopping behavior and purchasing products and services from those who incorporate sustainable principles and values into daily operations. 


As the climate emergency threatens the future of humanity, it is imperative that consumers young and old use their purchasing power to press the business community into committing to environmental reform. Without swift action and global collaboration, the planet will continue to suffer from the actions of the world’s largest public and private entities.