Without exaggeration, climate change has the potential to be the greatest rebellion in recorded history. It is the rebellion of matter or nature against the human civilization. What we see today is just a wake-up call to our short-sightedness. In the name of development we have forgotten to use our individual and collective consciousness. A greater or, if we do not mend our ways, the greatest degree of upheaval is awaiting us.
Climate change is a universal problem. It has been happening since time immemorial, gradually giving ecosystems time to adapt. Some of the prominent natural factors are gradual drift of landmass, volcanic eruptions, direction change of ocean currents and the earth’s tilt. But the concern is the way the change has been happening for over last hundred years.
It has been speeded up because of man’s activities. It is the result of emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases (GHGs) from anthropogenic activities like large-scale use of fossil fuel, deforestation and rapid industrial growth. All these factors can be ascribed to growing consumerism and population explosion. The impact of climate change and global warming has already been felt by the mankind. If it goes unabatedly, in the coming years we will reach the irremediable ‘tipping point’, exposing the globe to unmitigated catastrophe. Almost all aspects of our lives will be affected more severely due to this phenomenon.
Agricultural yield will be affected directly because of change in temperature and rainfall pattern and indirectly, through degradation of soil quality and increase of variety of pests and diseases. Rise in sea-level will lead to loss of land and severe floods. Global warming will have adverse effect on human and animal wealth. Also, wildlife and marine life will find it difficult to adapt to the rapidly changing ecosystem.
Global warming aggravates the challenge of poverty making poor people more vulnerable. Considering the urgency of the situation and apprehending possible damage it can bring out, climate change should be combated in “walk the talk” manner. Maintaining environmental sustainability should be given utmost priority in every sphere of life. Managing a harmonious relationship with nature must be the way of life. And, the onus rests upon the Government, NGOs, civil society organizations and corporate houses to take initiative in this direction.
In the backdrop of a rising Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) movement these days, more and more business actors have realized their duties to the society. Many a times referred as corporate citizenship or corporate social and environmental responsibility, CSR concept states that commercial organizations have a duty of care for all their stakeholders in all aspects of their operation. CSR started basically as a concept of voluntary contribution by the companies for a better society and cleaner environment. But over the years a growing number of companies are joining the CSR bandwagon because their customers, their investors and the public expect them to act responsible and sustainable. Also, the fact that CSR now is the result of some social, economic and environmental factors cannot be denied. But, irrespective of the reason behind the movement, it is a welcome development.
CSR having an ethical perspective should operate in line with the three pillars of sustainable development i.e. economic development, social equity and environmental justice. Sustainable development is the means to satisfy the need of the present generations without compromising the resources of future generations. CSR can play a vital role in containing the perils of uncontrolled development. It serves to neutralize the negative impact of business on society. Climate change being the byproduct of mindless development trend propelled by the corporate sector is to be mitigated by the ethical business practices. For sustainable business there is a need for sustainable development of society and environment. A business cannot prosper in a society which fails.
Unarguably, natural environment is one of the major stakeholders of the companies. So, they should be concerned primarily for judicious use of natural resources, energy conservation, reduction of water use, waste management and abatement of polluting emissions. Industrial companies can enhance their brand image by developing and disseminating environmental-friendly technologies. Apart from that, CSR can play a significant role in improving environmental literacy and consciousness among the people.
For effective implementation of CSR exercises companies need to involve all their stakeholders like consumers, employees, community, media, Government and NGOs. Stakeholder engagement in green initiatives will remove roadblocks and minimize potential crises. A framework needs to be developed to ensure that environmental, social and economic concerns are considered in tandem throughout the company’s decision-making processes.
The companies should develop and follow a Sustainable Management System (SMS) after identifying and prioritizing sustainability aspects and impacts.
International climate change negotiations have thrown new challenges of competitiveness for business across the world. Emission reduction targets of developed countries in particular have been translated through their business and it has led to companies adopt low-carbon strategies. Growing environmental concern of consumers and the clean and green practices of responsible corporations have forced products and supply chains to become more carbon-sensitive. It has started to create new competitive pressure on business.
Eco-friendly attitude and sustainable business practices are now among the critical determinants of corporate competitiveness.
To promote social performance of corporate bodies, civil society and media have to act as catalysts. Civil Society Organisations (CSOs) should be more involved with monitoring of CSR activities. They should develop sector-specific best practices after having meaningful dialogue with industries. Also, it is time for small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to join the giants and contribute in their own ways for preserving climate justice. Media houses should regularly publish and do ranking on not only financial but also on CSR benchmarks.
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Disclaimer: The views expressed by the author in this feature are entirely his own and do not necessarily reflect the views of India CSR.