Holding corporate feet to the flame over climate action
Today we’re launching Action Speaks Louder, a new organisation focused on holding corporate feet to the flame over climate promises. Our aim is to get companies into renewables and out of lobbying against climate action.
Here’s how it’s going to work.
“Publicity is our police force.” This is what the head of corporate affairs of a major Australian bank confided to me a few years back at a sustainable investment conference.
At the time, the bank was first coming to terms with how to square off its stated desire for sustainability with the billions of dollars a year it poured into fossil fuel companies and projects.
The point he was making was that while many of the bank’s staff and customers want to do the right thing, senior management would only really walk the talk if faced with public scrutiny and pressure.
And this bank is far from alone. Because today, almost without exception, companies around the world have made sustainability and climate part of their promise. You just have to look at the ongoing COP26 in Glasgow to see companies lining up to air their latest announcements.
Companies need to act. And we need them to.
Companies have to act, because from fires and floods to polluted air, the climate crisis threatens human survival. And they understand that being part of the solution is important to customers and staff.
Equally, for a safer and more equitable world, we need companies to act, because they have an outsized influence over politics. They are the biggest electricity users, and a critical source of funding for energy systems, both clean and dirty.
Some companies understand adapting faster makes good business sense.
Many others are more interested in sounding good than doing good.
Time to walk the talk.
Behind the fine words and promises, these companies continue to worsen the crisis. That can mean anything from lobbying against climate action, trashing the world around us with plastic waste, or relying on burning fossil fuels for their products, with no plan to switch to clean energy.
Frustrating though it may feel, the fact these companies have made a promise is a point of leverage. It gives us an opportunity to tell them ‘you said it, now you have to do it.’
But that requires scrutiny and pressure.
And that’s where you and I come in.
No executive wants to be called out for hypocrisy. Everyone wants to look like a person of their word, because for a company, reputation is everything.
Executives know that customers won’t want to buy from a company they don’t trust, nor will staff want to work for them.
But it’s down to us to let them know, loudly and clearly, that they need to live up to their promises. And that’s what we’re going to do.