When IKEA made a climate pledge deemed "bigger than Sweden's," I got pretty excited. But the Swedish furniture giant isn't the only major corporation that is making big—nay, gigantic—financial pledges in the effort to slow climate change. From Apple's huge commitment to clean energy and sustainable forestry to Amazon's recent forays into large-scale wind power, we've seen plenty of commitments that would have been unthinkable a decade ago.
Today appears to mark another step change in magnitude, as reported over at Business Green, 13 US companies will pledge to invest $140 billion in the fight against climate change, while slashing their own emissions and water use too.
In many ways, it appears our business leaders are out in front of our political representatives, taking bolder action than government is able (or willing) to do. That said, the White House is a central coordinating partner in the American Business Act on Climate Pledge, which is expected to see more businesses sign up over the coming months. So perhaps it's more true to say that our political leaders (at least some of them) are beginning to understand that they'll need to make the economic case for climate action, and business leaders can help them do that.
We should also note, of course, that signatories to the pledge launching today include players with a far from perfect rap sheet on climate. Those companies include Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Berkshire Hathaway Energy, Cargill, Coca-Cola, General Motors, Goldman Sachs, Google, Microsoft, PepsiCo, UPS, and Walmart.
It might be tempting to focus on the fact that Bank of America has dumped coal mining but continues to finance coal power, or that Cargill has committed to zero deforestation and more efficient shipping, yet its operations have sometimes put valuable natural treasures at risk. But we shouldn't get distracted expecting perfection from a deeply imperfect system. The magnitude of this climate pledge should be celebrated and encouraged.
Not only does this pledge make a transition to a low carbon economy more likely by the sheer virtue of its financial commitments—it also serves as a very public sign of commitment to which companies can now be held accountable. Additionally, as when Apple, Google and Facebook warned NC legislators about cutting their states' renewable energy ambitions, it marks another signal to our political leaders about where our economy is inevitably going.
Activists will no doubt have to continue to hold Big Business and politicians alike accountable for robust climate action. This pledge makes their job that much easier.