After Indiana: Will tech CEOs force action on climate too?

Tim Cook photo
CC BY 2.0 deerkoski

When Governor Mike Pence agreed to rewrite Indiana's new "religious freedom law," he did so not just because equality activists had been outraged.

He did so because CEOs (lots of them) threatened to pull money (lots of it) and jobs (lots of them) out of his state.

Marriage equality, gay rights and religious freedom are not, typically, core TreeHugger topics, so I'll refrain from offering my thoughts on the Indiana bill in particular. (Although anyone who knows my biases will probably guess my opinion.) Still, I think there's an important green lesson to be learned from this kerfuffle: As the tech industry, the insurance industry, investment groups and others start to get more vocal about the threat of climate change, there's a good chance they'll shift the political landscape.

From IKEA's massive investments in renewables to Verizon getting serious about solar, more and more businesses are taking significant action to green their own footprint.

But businesses cannot simply plant some trees or erect solar panels and call it quits, any more than I can reuse a grocery bag and forget about my civic responsibilities. We have to make our voices heard too.

Luckily, that's beginning to happen. Whether it's Google's denunciation of ALEC or Tim Cook's defense of Apples renewables investments in the face of anti-renewables shareholder activists, business leaders are already flexing their muscles when it comes to climate politics.

And as the economic threat of climate change comes into increasing focus, and as the business opportunities inherent in a low carbon future become ever more apparent, we can expect to see even more leaders speaking out on this issue.

If Indiana is anything to go by, we may even finally see action in areas where denial, delay and gridlock has been the norm.

Of course there will be those in the fossil fuel camp who decry "crony capitalism" and corporate self interest, and we must be vigilant of undue influence. But let's not forget that Big Energy spends big money on politics too, and hasn't been afraid to speak out. Given the economic disaster that climate change represents, it's only right that business leaders make their voices heard.

This is just rebalancing the scales. And the scales desperately need rebalancing.

Tags: Activism | Corporate Responsibility | Renewable Energy

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