Corporation or Consumer?

Conservation belongs at the corporate level

Elizabeth Kuffour

VOTE: 19 for/0 against

It’s clear that the world is facing a serious climate crisis. Carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels and industry have increased over 12.42 billion metric tons in the last 20 years, according to Statista. The global annual temperature has increased approximately 0.13 degrees Fahrenheit per decade since 1880, and more than twice that rate since 1981.

Many have taken the responsibility of environmentalism upon themselves by making changes in their lifestyle to lessen their impact on the environment. Solutions like using public transportation, thrifting and using reusable straws have become mainstream practices.

Some have even taken this a step further by adopting the zero-waste lifestyle, in which one grocery shops in bulk, buys items secondhand and uses biodegradable versions of disposable products in an effort to bring the overall amount of waste they put into the environment to zero. Zero-waste living has been rapidly popularized in the last decade by social media platforms such as Instagram and YouTube.

But when did it become the responsibility of the consumer to make the market more environmentally friendly? The problem isn’t with zero-waste or sustainable living, it’s with the premise — industry isn’t going to go green, so the civilian has to do it for them.

The Carbon Majors Report found that more than half of global industrial emissions since 1988 can be traced back to just 25 corporate entities. ExxonMobil, Shell, BP and Chevron are listed as some of the highest contributors. If each of these companies made an effort to decrease their carbon footprint, emissions worldwide would drastically decrease. But instead, it’s become the sole responsibility of the consumer to alter their lifestyle. Imagine if environmentally friendly practices were implemented on both sides of the market; 

Some companies have made an effort to reverse the negative effects they’ve had on the environment. Amazon emitted 51.17 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2019, up 15 percent from the 44.4 million metric tons they emitted the year prior. As a result, they’ve fully disclosed their carbon footprint and pledged $2 billion to implement environmentally-friendly practices with the goal of becoming carbon neutral by 2040. The Climate Pledge, announced by CEO Jeff Bezos in September 2019, was also signed by Verizon, Infosys and Reckitt Benckiser Group in June of this year. Dell created a free recycling program for their products to encourage safe disposal. Volvo has begun to offer electric models of all their cars, aiming for 50 percent of sales to be “fully electric” by 2025. But all of these efforts are in vain unless the oil industry, which accounts for the majority of industry-related carbon emissions, follows suit.

The most impactful way to combat corporate-level environmental harm as a consumer is to “vote with your dollar.” The consumer’s biggest power is capital, and when companies stop receiving it, they must make a change. We can only hope it’s a change in the right direction.