Unusual suspects join climate marches - business onside

Tuesday, 23 September, 2014

An interesting side note to last Sunday’s Climate March, which was a large-scale, coordinated gathering and demonstration across the world’s major cities calling for positive action in the face of climate change (over 300,000 people marched in New York alone: it wasn’t small). All this comes as the period of the Kyoto Protocol stutters to a halt and the world looks to next year’s Global Climate Change Conference in Paris.

So far so unsurprising, you’d have thought, but this piece in the UK Guardian entitled “Top business leaders on why they joined the People's Climate March” is interesting: “Executives from Ikea, Unilever, NRG and others took to the streets Sunday,” it says, “to demand environmental and social justice.” Those are big names; and we’re so used to having big business cast as the end-of-level bosses in the climate dialectic that this is certainly worth a second look.

This piece, which should be read in full here [http://www.theguardian.com/sustainable-business/2014/sep/22/peoples-clim... is particularly notable because it’s a blog piece drawing together tweet and extracts from pieces or interviews by all of these people themselves, talking about their reasons for joining the marches. Notables include:

David Crane, CEO of NRG: “My impression is that, since the Vietnam War protests, mainstream Americans tend to believe that people who take to the streets to agitate for social causes are far-left-wing radicals bent on being destructive rather than constructive. As the CEO of a Fortune 250 company - and an energy company no less - I am anything but a radical leftist. I came to the march to show that all of us, all across the political spectrum, ‘own’ this issue and we owe it to our children to act.”

Peter Agnefjäll, CEO of Ikea Group: “I am here as a business leader, as a private citizen and as a father of two lovely children to call for ambitious measures to tackle climate change.”

Jeff Seabright, chief sustainability officer of Unilever: “I have a different theory of change in which business can provide the leadership and innovation to drive change at scale.”

Jerry Greenfield, co-founder of Ben & Jerry’s (OK, so maybe this one’s not so surprising): “What makes me so optimistic about the march is not just its size, but its diversity. More than 1,700 groups helped organize it, from First Nations and youth to labor unions and corporations. There were executives from multinational companies and employees from smaller progressive companies like Ben & Jerry’s. These were not just the usual suspects; these were unusual allies.”

Aron Cramer, CEO of BSR: “All of us assembling in New York need to play a long game, however. The businesses that are acting on climate have a uniquely important role to play, by demonstrating what’s possible, implementing available efficiency gains today and explaining to policymakers that climate action will in fact preserve our prosperity.”

It’s a welcome shot of positivity to an issue about which it’s easy - and your correspondent is certainly often guilty of this - to become cynical and pessimistic, no matter how genuine one’s own hope for change. So let’s not: here’s hoping these men and women and people like them bring about the previously unthinkable and drag us off the path to the Ballard model.  Because it’s either that or wait for the Chinese to crack enough heads to bring us cold fusion.