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Climate One

Wednesday, January 27 at 2:00 pm

Talk Green, Play Dirty: Corporate America’s Mixed Record

In December 2020, the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions issued a letter calling on President-elect Biden to return to the Paris climate agreement, and work with Congress on ambitious, durable and bipartisan solutions. The letter was signed by 42 American companies, including Amazon, General Motors and Walmart, and called climate action “a business imperative.”

“Corporations are very willing to do things to green their own businesses, but they are less willing to do anything to change the political environment to create the conditions necessary for climate action,” says Emily Atkin, author of the Heated Newsletter.

Questioning science, funding vocal climate denial groups, and encouraging the focus on personal carbon footprints — moving the responsibility from the systemic to the individual — are the preferred tools for shifting responsibility away from industry.

“The corporation I think really is designed to promote denial and to diminish social responsibility and to enhance bias,” says Barbara Freese, Author, Industrial-Strength Denial: Eight Stories of Corporations Defending the Indefensible, from the Slave Trade to Climate Change.

But with more employees holding CEOs accountable and the start of a departure from shareholder-first capitalism, is the role of the corporation shifting? Should we be scrutinizing the climate action plans of tech giants like Salesforce over energy companies like Exxon Mobil?

“What I'm looking for is organizations who are aligning their lobbying and their campaign contributions with all of the work that they're doing inside their organization,” says Mike Toffel, Professor of Environmental Management, Harvard Business School.

But will voluntary action -- even by huge corporations -- ever be enough to fully decarbonize the economy?

“Stan Lee, Spiderman, with great power comes great responsibility,” says Bill Weihl, Former Sustainability Director at Facebook, “These companies have a lot of power.  We need them to use it for the common good on climate, not just for their own good.”

Speakers:
Emily Atkin
Journalist

Barbara Freese
Author, Industrial-Strength Denial: Eight Stories of Corporations Defending the Indefensible, from the Slave Trade to Climate Change

Michael Toffel
Senator John Heinz Professor of Environmental Management, Harvard Business School

Bill Weihl
Founder and Executive Director, ClimateVoice; Former Green Energy Czar, Google

To listen to the audio of “Talk Green, Play Dirty: Corporate America’s Mixed Recordon Climate One online, please click HERE.