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Adrienne Lawrence

Legal analyst, law professor & award-winning author

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Companies go quiet on climate change to avoid culture war fallout

Jun 14, 2023

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Tackling climate change and net-zero goals used to be a regular part of corporate America’s public relations missions. But as culture-war boycotts take a costly toll on brands like Bud Light and Target, many companies are going quiet on potentially divisive green initiatives, to avoid potential fallout.

Straight Arrow News contributor Adrienne Lawrence wonders when protecting the planet became a divisive issue and explains why companies need to rethink their strategy.

“Green hushing” is what they’re calling it, that [sic] when it becomes a bigger part of a larger corporate strategy to try to veer away from divisive subjects concerning the environment. But I’m dying to know — how is it divisive to advocate for sustainable practices? And who are these consumers out there that are on the side of the earth running out of resources becoming unlivable and all of mankind somehow dying in an apocalyptic showdown? 

Perhaps someone at DocuSign could probably tell me, because apparently the electronic signature firm who once proudly and loudly touted its efforts to reach net zero emissions by 2050, has now gone mum. Over the last three years, they’ve really quieted down on their sustainability initiatives, carbon-neutral status, and net-zero emissions. It seems also chipmaker Qualcomm has been operating similarly.

Why not talk about these things? Efforts to keep mankind alive should neither be taboo nor risqué. In March, United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear that we’re speeding toward catastrophe, giving us approximately 10 years to get it together before we cross the point of no return. The global average temperatures — they’re estimated to rise to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels around the first half of the 2030s. And according to scientists, any greater increase in temperature would result in catastrophic heat waves, flooding, drought, crop failures, and species extinction, making it significantly harder for humanity to survive.

While everyone’s out there talking about the indictment of former President Donald Trump, everyone apparently is not talking about green initiatives. According to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal, companies have significantly fallen off in terms of speaking about sustainable practices. And this is a great concern, because in our society where corporations call the shots, Americans cannot afford for businesses not to advance important climate change conversations.

“Green hushing” is what they’re calling it, that, when it becomes a bigger part of a larger corporate strategy to try to veer away from divisive subjects concerning the environment. But I’m dying to know — how is it divisive to advocate for sustainable practices? And who are these consumers out there that are on the side of the earth running out of resources becoming unlivable and all of mankind somehow dying in an apocalyptic showdown?

Perhaps someone at DocuSign could probably tell me, because apparently, the electronic signature firm who once proudly and loudly touted its efforts to reach net zero emissions by 2050, has now gone mum. Over the last three years, they’ve really quieted down on their sustainability initiatives, carbon-neutral status and net-zero emissions.

It seems also chipmaker Qualcomm has been operating similarly. Why not talk about these things? Efforts to keep mankind alive should neither be taboo nor risque. In March, United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change made clear that we’re speeding toward catastrophe, giving us approximately 10 years to get it together before we cross the point of no return. The global average temperatures? They’re estimated to rise to 2.7 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels around the first half of the 2030s. And according to scientists, any greater increase in temperature would result in catastrophic heat waves, flooding, drought, crop failures and species extinction, making it significantly harder for humanity to survive.

We’ll get Mad Max without any of the sequels. And we’re already seeing the consequences of climate change play out in everyday life. Just this past weekend, thousands of fish washed up on the shores of the Texas Gulf Coast, because there wasn’t enough oxygen in the water for the fish to be able to breathe. While oxygen changes in water is somewhat of a natural occurrence, don’t get me wrong, marine biologists say that it’s not natural to the extent that we’re seeing it. And so fish are being impacted.

And speaking of impact, well it just released peer-reviewed study research report conducted by Earth Commission concluded that unless we course-correct and fast will be the ones impacted. We’re destined to experience substantial loss in life, livelihood and income, loss of access to nature’s contributions to people, loss of land, chronic disease, injury, malnutrition, and displacement. How is human existence a political issue? How is it divisive polarizing? Do these companies not realize that they cannot survive without consumers who are actually alive? It’s as frustrating as it is foolish to stay silent about things that are vital to your organization and everything that exists. Companies should be speaking up and standing up, rather than trying to toe the line in hopes of keeping everyone happy and raking in profits at the same time. As an old Greek proverb said, “Only when the last tree has died, and the last river has been poisoned, and the last fish caught, will we realize we cannot eat money.

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