What Can Business Do to Fight Climate Change?

Professor Christopher Wright and Professor Daniel Nyberg discuss what’s next for business in tackling climate change.

Volkswagen has become the latest face of business green washing after the car giant was found to have used sophisticated technology to cheat emissions tests. And it isn’t the first time this has happened to a major business with Coca-Cola questioned over its eco-friendly package amongst other incidents. On the flip side, we have seen organisations try to do their bit. For instance, Citigroup became the latest bank to cut back on financing coal mining projects. It appears there’s a two-step forward one-step back motion when it comes to business trying to improve its climate footprint. “I’d suggest [business’ exploitation of the environment] is the biggest issue we face as a species,” Professor Christopher Wright of the Balanced Enterprise Research Network said.

Professor Wright and Professor Daniel Nyberg, of the Newcastle Business School and an Honorary Professor at the University of Sydney, have just launched their book Climate Change, Capitalism and Corporations, which outlines alternative narratives to the current path of so-called ‘creative self-destruction’ that business has taken in response to climate change. This book will form the basis of a discussion next Monday 19 Oct at the University of Sydney to look at the links between corporate capitalism and human-induced climate disruption and to look at whether there are any solutions to the current status quo.

“Unfortunately we’ve had 200 years of rapid industrial development based on fossil fuel energy that has allowed us to believe we are somehow separate from nature and the environment,” Professor Wright said. Both authors will be joined by Professor Clive Hamilton of Charles Sturt University, Greenpeace Australia CEO David Ritter and Climate Council CEO Amanda McKenzie at the event, which is co-hosted with Sydney Ideas.

One idea in their book is ‘renewable reinvention’ such that markets and governments force a rapid shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Hard regulation though is key according to Professor Nyberg. He notes business will only self-regulate if there is a “threat of legislation” and penalties that come with it.

“Capitalism is wonderful; it creates opportunities for capital accumulation within almost any form of market regulations. Set really hard limitations and let businesses respond by doing what they do best: create opportunities and wealth,” Professor Nyberg said. He also notes that with the upcoming COP21 climate talks in Paris, countries need to work with business. “Arguably, we don’t want business to sign binding agreements; we want nations to do it. Similar to taxation, business will try to move their emission reporting to the jurisdiction most lenient.”

Professor Wright adds that the difficulties in this current landscape of a neoliberal market society is that governments are unlikely to challenge the power of large multinational corporations and rely on corporate self-regulation. “Indeed, many western governments are weakening corporate regulation and passing laws to facilitate corporate profitability.”

He says Monday’s event (19 Oct) will be a great way to have an honest conversation about the scale of the problem and the underlying economic drivers. “There is an awful big elephant in the room that we refuse to talk about and that is the way in which our current economic system of globalised corporate capitalism is leading us to environmental disaster,” Professor Wright said.

Click here to find out more details and register for the Climate Change, Capitalism & Corporations event.

Chris WrightDaniel Nyberg


Article with Rebecca Simpson