Op-Ed: Here’s how companies can strong-arm their suppliers into cutting carbon emissions
It’s Friday afternoon, and I’m sitting on a panel at the University of Delaware, discussing the future of corporate sustainability. On one side is a former Coca-Cola CEO, on the other a former Google executive. They’re both former executives who’d moved their companies away from carbon-intensive business practices.
But the questions they’re asked are not about changing corporate behavior — they’re about how to manage to hold onto your current carbon footprint, even if you’re a global carbon company. That’s a different conversation altogether. The former C.E.O. and Google’s C.E.O, respectively, are part of a growing new group: Executives who’ve been forced out of their jobs by the rapid rise of carbon-intensive consumer goods — and who, in their own words, would prefer to no longer have to work for a company that’s so heavily dependent on these products. This group is so large, in fact, that a team at the University of Delaware has begun an initiative to quantify their numbers, so that they might be able to have greater input into the discussion about how to better manage the carbon footprint of business.
The new research, published in Environmental Science and Technology, calls upon corporate social responsibility scholars and the social science community to begin investigating these issues. In other words, the researchers are saying: “Hey, I’m interested — let’s start studying these issues.”
This shift in the study of sustainability is important because much of our energy consumption comes from products that are carbon-intensive. This includes everything from appliances to laptops to cars, and everything we buy in food, clothing and shelter.
To put it another way: As a society, we’ve spent the past 40 years or so consuming more energy from carbon-intensive goods than from energy-efficient goods. That’s because the energy-efficient version of a product is no longer competitive.
The new research is intended to help companies that want to remain competitive in the market, but to manage their carbon footprint. In other words: If you’ve been forced out of your