Corporate ivory towers surrendering to activism; for NOW!

Pratima H

CAN you believe it is happening? Did you read the latest on ExxonMobil? Wow, the oil and energy Goliath could actually be giving a nod to fulfill a long-due devoir that every capitalist, industrialist, and err, even monopolist carries?

It is open to publicising risks that stricter carbon emissions rules and limits cascade on its its business. This is not only a first-of-its-kind move by any oil and gas giant of this scale and impact but also quite a surprising detour to the way the industry has usually behaved indifferently to the concerns raised on environment

Climate change activists would definitely find this as a new flash in a pan that has only cooked apathy so far, whether it’s been the case of far-reaching ocean oil spills or fracking-triggered city-blights.

This so-anticipated public acknowledgement of potential impact of carbon emissions limits apropos its business model, along with (expected)  transparency on evaluation of “risk of stranded assets” from climate change, is a big step.

But then, only time will drill well whether this is more than Jayus moment for people actually concerned with climate and environment responsibilities. The level and the intent that the company can display ahead will be a clincher of sorts here. The corporation won’t be applauded loud unless we see a real, objective and sincere effort on this landmark pursuit.

The industry carries a sisyphean stone since its onset specially as oil reserves while being too expensive in terms of extraction also become uneconomical when carbon emission reduction comes into play.

So reckoning those reserve assets on a similar pedestal as other assets are assessed would be a key indication of their real intentions here, as some experts have argued well.

On the other side of corporate world, PepsiCo, another giant from food and beverage aisles, has shown willingness to take steps in mitigating illegal land seizures by suppliers of raw materials vis a vis sugar and palm oil in an attempt to observe social and environmental standards.

Reminds you of a Coca-Cola pledge not far away. Response on consumer-alertness of a new flavour and campaigns by development groups like Oxfam are finally making brands like these follow ethical standards among suppliers in poor countries.

Audits of suppliers would include regions like Brazil, Mexico, Thailand, the Philippines etc.

BigCarrot_3stories_730xNotably, Oxfam had ranked the top 10 food and drink companies on various parameters that also included water, land, climate change and transparency, and there PepsiCo came close on the heels of Nestle, Unilever and Coca-Cola etc.

The number of climate change laws on the statue books of the world’s leading economies grew from less than 40 in 1997 to almost 500 at the end of 2013 and as Sam Fankhauser,  Co-Director of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change at the London School of Economics contends in a recent blogpost, one of the most powerful drivers of climate legislation is the number of climate laws passed elsewhere while peer pressure and intergovernmental knowledge exchange play their own strong roles.

Hopefully news hinting at voluntary audits of this genre from Exxon or Pepsi won’t be few and far between and we will see a positive contagion spilling about.

Oh by the way, just a month back, Rex Tillerson, CEO of ExxonMobil was helping headlines with a new grease when it was heard that he is part of a lawsuit against a public utility Cross Timbers Water Supply Corp. A Oil company CEO was seen opposing fracking for a change. A tower behind his home by the utility’s was allegedly causing him noise, traffic, and other problems and that pushed Tillerson and his wife to launch a suit against Cross Timbers to block the proposed water tower. As reports added spice to the mills, even former U.S. House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R) and his wife were lead plaintiffs in the suit.

Now that’s INteresting!


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