Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Harvard Business Review thinks that because some businesses objected to North Carolina’s transgender bathroom law, this is a sign they will all soon jump on the bandwagon, and take real action to tackle climate change.
After North Carolina passed a bizarre transgender bathroom law with sweeping implications (one that, according to the Justice Department, is probably illegal), an impressive list of big companies made their displeasure known. The CEOs of dozens of corporate giants — including Alcoa, Apple, Bank of America, Citibank, Facebook, Google, IBM, Kellogg, Marriott, PwC, and Starbucks — sent an open letter to the governor to defend “protections for LGBT people.” PayPal canceled plans for an operations center in the state, and Deutsche Bank announced it would freeze the addition of 250 employees in the state because of the law.
The floodgates of business proactively influencing societal norms and public policy are finally opening. And while some people may get nervous about this use of corporate power, I believe that businesses can have an enormous impact for good. Many other issues could, and should, follow.
At the same time, it’s worth asking why is this happening now — and what are the implications?
In theory, then, any moral issue that moves us away from thriving economically is also a business problem — so why stop at LGBT rights? A large number of issues could fall under the same dual logic: avoiding brand-damaging human-rights issues in the supply chain, fighting income and opportunity inequality (including supporting minimum wages), and, of course, tackling big environmental issues such as climate change.
So shouldn’t companies pounce on that kind of law, with its shocking level of ignorance and poor strategy, as “bad for business”? After all, rising seas will have a real impact on business and economic development. But the business reaction to the sea level law was nearly nonexistent.
In my opinion the author is wrong about motivation. Many large businesses, businesses like Google Corporation and Apple, are managed by people who are passionate about climate change. The problem is. as Google discovered, as Bill Gates discovered, it simply isn’t possible to make a meaningful difference to CO2 emissions using current solar or wind technology.