To Save the Planet We Must Address Inequality
In advance of the 50th Davos conference this past January, Forum founder and executive chairman, Klaus Schwab and the heads of Bank of America and Royal DSM sent an extraordinary letter to company leaders heading to Switzerland. He asked them for a significant commitment – to do everything in their power to achieve net zero carbon emissions by 2050 or earlier.
This call-to-action came on the heels of other newsworthy steps taken by the corporate community, including a letter signed by Apple CEO Tim Cook and other CEOs in December 2019 urging the Trump administration to keep the United States a member of the Paris Agreement.
All efforts to address climate change are welcome and necessary. The situation is urgent. But the reality is we won’t meet our goals if we think about climate change in exclusion of inequality. After all, anyone earning a wage that allows for choice has a myriad of opportunities to adapt their behaviour toward the goal of overcoming the climate crisis. But what about everyone else?
People on the base of the pyramid have fewer resources. They are more likely to live in poorly insulated rental accommodation, have significantly fewer food options and less resource to invest in their overall health. When one is living so close to the margin, what resource do they have to become environmentally sustainable?
That paradox guides the work of Social Value International https://socialvalueint.org/ . It is the reason that networks of people, practitioners and organizations around the world are working to change the way the world accounts for value. Together, we are working to raise recognition of how resourcing decisions need to change in order to reduce inequality, address environmental degradation and promote the wellbeing of community. Because, unless we’re prepared to deal with inequality in step with climate change, we’re simply fooling ourselves.
If corporate leaders really want to move the climate change needle, here’s my suggestion: make a commitment to be carbon neutral as you ensure that everyone in your supply chain is paid a living wage. And then invest some of your profits into addressing inequality among people who can’t tackle inequality on their own. Innovation is required on all three fronts. It is a three-pronged strategy that will save the planet. Its time to change the way we account for value.