Corporate social responsibility and climate shifts: Introduction
The task in connecting corporate responsibility and ethical business practices is to make the engaged parties move towards resolving the problems in the area. Climate shifts is one topic that is well suited in this area. The issue of climate change requires an in-depth study in that there is a rising disconnect between the increasing public adoption of the prevalence and the critical nature of the dilemmas it presents and the reluctance and even outright hostility by corporate leaders and policy makers, specifically those in the energy exploration and generation industry, to acquiescing with the impacts of the issue on their respective industries.
Expounding to the business community for them to realize that these can be part of the solution, rather than be part of the problem, is where it is of critical importance that businesses must be “recruited.” As corporate mentors and teachers stress the significance of the “triple bottom line”- “profits, planet, and people, as proffered by Bisoux (2008)-the program for continuality must be directly widened and strengthened to counter climate change issues (Rockwood, 2008, pp. 430-431).
Given these concerns, the paper seeks to establish several points of research:
Corporate social responsibility is an effective mechanism in countering global climate change.
CSR objectives are meant to placate the demands of the public regarding company responses towards the issue.
CSR goals are meant to generate better business levels for companies
There are companies that are serious in addressing climate change issues.
Description of the paper
Given the context of the field, one of the objectives of the paper is to discover the linkages or non-linkages that businesses and the issue of climate change possess. The work utilizes qualitative research in this endeavour to determine the state of this issue. Among the objectives that the paper hopes to discover is whether businesses actually engage in CSR activities related to climate change, whether the benefits are critical factors in strategic corporate planning structures, and whether all of these activities are designed to contribute to decreasing threats from climate change or all of these activities are parts of a massive “public relations” campaign to assuage the fears of the public regarding the issue.
Background of the Problem
Welford notes that the massive amounts of greenhouse gases (GHGs) discharged over the past centuries into the atmosphere have not dissipated or been reduced and will not be reabsorbed by the world’s oceans and seas and forested areas until the middle of the 21st century. However, even with this reality, countries and industries continue to increase the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere at dangerous levels. The amount of GHGs in the atmosphere is too massive that even if all countries and industries were to cease discharging GHGs today, reducing the amount of these gases in the atmosphere to arrive at acceptable levels will take up to 50 years. All through the period of reducing the amount of gases in the atmosphere, nations will continue to suffer from the destructive effects of climate change (p. 2).
In the days prior to the Copenhagen climate summit, environmental advocates, researchers, and politicians regarded the summit as a turning point in the history of humanity. With the Copenhagen convention neared, both United Nations policy makes and climate change groups hoping that the COP-15 will become a watershed event for the establishment of a new carbon-limited international economy for the coming decades.
Moreover, the results of the previous elections in the United States left many in the global community to believe that the road was more defined that will result in the accession of the United States among the nations in accord for the displacement of the prevailing Kyoto Protocol, and that emerging economies such as India and China would eventually bind themselves to international accords and restrictions on GHG emissions. However, none of the expectations occurred; the Copenhagen treaty is a political mechanism and not a legal agreement. Hence, the summit and the effort established nothing more than a non-binding agreement on the parties. The following year, the parties in the summit conceded that no significant progress was achieved from the Kyoto Protocol (Rosen-Zvi, 2011, pp. 527-528).
At present, the primary financial tool being engaged in addressing climate change concerns is the Green Climate Fund. However, the fund’s collective effort seems to fall short of the intended goal. In the 2014 UNEP disclosure, it estimated that the 2020 goal of the fund, estimated to reach $100 billion, will only cover one third of the costs that emerging countries will incur in adapting to climate change policies.
The report also discloses that the modification costs will rise to approximately $ 150 billion by the years 2025/2030 and up to $ 250 billion yearly up to 2050; this is based on moderate estimates that discharge rates are decreased to reduce temperature spikes under 2 ° Celsius over “pre-industrial” rates as per international agreements (Ortar, 2015, p. 7).
The prevailing international trade and commerce model is rapidly depleting scarce resources as well the capacities of the planet to recover and replenish. The exhaustion of the planet’s natural resources and the growing for energy and alterations in the composition of the world’s environment are triggering enormous environmental anomalies and placing the future development of the next generations under threat. In this light, there is a growing need to develop systems to lower greenhouse gas discharges, lower the wasteful use of natural resources and introduce technologies that will increase efficiency in using resources. Moreover, these initiatives must also focus on using cleaner energy sources as well as lowering carbon discharges into the air (Abengoa, 2011).
Businesses across a wide array of industries are being taken to task by their shareholders as well as company stakeholders not only to strengthen financial strength and profits, but to address other pressing and critical matters such as economic sustainability and climate change. Though opinions vary on the manner that responsibility will be allocated between the public and private sectors, business sector stakeholders-company shareholders, workers, suppliers, governments, and industry regulators are urging companies assume a wider role in dealing with the issues of climate change. As a result of these calls, businesses are increasingly collaborating with stakeholders to ascertain the concerns as well as the perceptions on a number of “corporate social responsibility (CSR) concerns and to amalgamate these issues in the critical decision making mechanism of the business sector (Noked, 2013).
Ortar (2015, p. 12) states that all actions undertaken by a company, as with the case of people, can be classified as a volitional or compulsory choice. Understanding that CSR actions are voluntary in nature, any activity conducted by businesses to comply with its legal prerequisites is not considered as a CSR action, but activities done to comply with legal requisites. Compared to this scenario, when a state’s regulatory structure is deficient or is capable of providing an effective deterrent against violators, then the action/program conducted by the country can be interpreted as a volitional action, and thus be regarded as a component of the CSR activities of the company/sector.
Hypothetically speaking, the primary reason businesses adopt volitional practices is connected to issues of credibility and protecting their “social license” to conduct business operations. This hypothetical structure maintains the idea that complying with the associated trade and commerce regulations and policies is obligatory for businesses, but not adequate. Overall, companies need to harness public acceptance for their manufactures and services as the approval of the public is a significant element for the success or failure of the product in a specific market.
It is widely held that the global governance structure regulating climate change issues is severely debilitated and seen as one without the necessary mandate. Aside from this concern, stakeholders in both the private and the public sector are bogged down in the unending debates and summits on developing an acceptable global structure to finally supplant the Kyoto Protocol. In reality, there are a small number of states that have applied a national scheme that acquiesces to global GHG reduction agreements (Ortar, 2015, p. 14).
Conclusion and future discussions
In this context, Jonathan Porritt and Gus Speth have separately called for a rebirth of capitalism to counter the threats of environmental shifts in the coming century. The variety in solutions proffered by scientists evinces a need to focus the “lights” of government as well as the private sector on the issue (Rockwood, 2008, p. 430). Several non-governmental organizations (NGOs) including the UK’s Climate Group and the American think tank the Pew Group have taken an active role in establishing the case for capitalists to implement policies and programs designed to further the cause of action on climate shifts.
In addition, these actions show the benefits of companies that have been gained by current business leaders. Corporate giants such as British Petroleum and Shell have conducted extensive programs to establish their respective in-house trading mechanisms that strengthen policies adopting competitive decreases across respective corporate structure. The new policies afford benefits for the company in various forms; among these forms include decreased energy usage, “first-mover advantages” derived from developing innovative technologies and production facilities, and public as well intra-company credibility from the perception of being viewed as an “environmentally responsible” business (Newell and Paterson, 2010, p. 46).
Take for example the position of American car giant Ford. Ford’s holding on the issue of climate change and emission reduction is that the latter “calls for an integrated approach- a partnership of all stakeholders, including the automotive industry, government and consumers.” Ford believes that decreasing discharge rates can be attained by way of consistent and substantive decreases in GHG discharges over several decades across the US economy.
In the context of the automotive and transport industry, meeting this objective entails developing vehicles with improved fuel efficiency, inventing fuels with lower carbon content, and closely working with government agencies on programs that would stimulate the interest of the consumers to purchase additional fuel efficient automobiles as well improved low carbon fuel options. In its goal to achieve decreased GHG emissions, the American car icon is supportive of President Obama’s position on regulating emissions and improving fuel efficiency.
Nonetheless, Ford also holds that centring government focus on a single sector will allow the government to meet its targets for GHG emission reduction; the company believes that only a “economy wide” retooling where the market, not the government, is the ultimate factor in determining where the private sector can reduce GHG discharges with the least possible cost to the US economy (Cheeseman, 2014).
The argument here is whether companies are truly becoming environmentally responsible, or are these actions mainly designed to placate the growing public calls for companies and the business sector in general to take a bigger role in addressing climate change, or are these CSR strategies are only improved “window decorations.” It is acknowledged that corporate “codes of conduct” and CSR activities are “too soft” and calls for the replacement of state and international controls for CSR policies are steps in the wrong direction. What must be emphasised here are the benefits that companies gain by practicing transparency-driven GHG reporting mechanisms as these will answer the demands of their stakeholders and enhance their image among consumers (Rosen-Zvi, 2011, p. 558).
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