Conservation and Conservatism - getting past the political issue of climate change
As is the case with so many issues in our society today, climate change has, it seems, become a political football. At the extremes we have those observers who denounce climate change [especially the contribution made by man] as a hoax and at the other end of the spectrum those who believe that galloping climate change will bring ruin to the planet far sooner than any scientist has predicted. Broadly speaking, it seems that the right does not accept that man has much responsibility for changes in the climate, which, if they exist at all, are the result of normal trends on our planet and the left believes that human behavior is, generally speaking, responsible for the changes that have occurred in our climate and which some predict will bring massive problems in the not-too-distant future. This division appears to be particularly true in our country for some reason, and yet there can be no question that for corporate America at the very least, the issue of climate change has become a major part of corporate commitment and attitude. Something seems to be at odds here! Perhaps it is that we sometimes get conservatism and conservation mixed up!
Even a cursory look at any major corporation in the United States, reveals that conservation [whether ascribed to climate change or simply to being stewards of the planet's resources] is at the center of Corporate Social Responsibility today. The implications of this massive change in the last five years have been felt by suppliers all over the world. The Wal-Mart scorecard, the P &G scorecard. for example, and many others, have impacted the sustainability performance of hundreds of thousands of companies across the globe. As a consequence, all links in the supply chain, from raw materials through distribution, are, or will be, forced to look at their own sustainability in order to fit in with the requirements of those giant corporations so frequently at the end of the supply chain.
The main market driver for this change is ultimately public opinion. Whether this is most effectively expressed by pressure in the media [in their view a reflection of public opinion], by younger generations more attuned to environmental issues, academic institutions or major conservation groups is not entirely clear. What is clear, however, is that corporate America, academic America and governmental America [through cities and states legislation] have responded with far-reaching programs for sustainability in greater quality and quantity than we have ever experienced before.
Whether politicians and individuals can or cannot agree that man has a significant responsibility for climate change, it would appear that there is unanimity that we have responsibility for environmental management in the sensible and sustainable use of our resources. The business implications for large and small companies are obvious. The sooner they become more sustainable, the more chance they have of competing in the burgeoning sustainability market. The truth is that sustainability can bring large cost savings through the conservation of energy, the reuse of materials and the continued review of those products which are shown to be more damaging to the environment than others and it would be naïve not to recognize that this is one of the major market drivers, that has worked to expand the sustainability market so significantly.
Finally, there is a question that is asked in every expanding market. Will it last? The idea that sustainability might be a ‘passing phase’ has surely been laid to rest and the likelihood is that for at least the near term, the demand for sustainable products and performance will grow significantly until sustainability becomes a way of life. The focus will doubtless move to other centers but the practices will surely remain.