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Climate Woes Demand Both War and Civil Action

[fa icon="calendar'] Sep 21, 2016 10:23:22 AM / by Carol Pierson Holding

By: Carol Pierson Holding

For at least a decade, I’ve been a huge fan of Bill McKibben, thought leader for the climatesustainability girl
movement. But his most recent article in The New Republic, “A World at War,” falls short.  Subtitled “We’re under attack from climate change — and our only hope is to mobilize like we did in WWII,” his piece uses war as more than an analogy: “It’s not that global warming is like a war. It is a war.”

After reviewing the horrors of global warming, McKibben reports how the U.S. and other nations could deploy renewable energy rapidly enough to reduce fossil fuel emissions 80% by 2030. Using a wholesale industrial retooling akin to WWII to manufacture solar, wind and geothermal equipment, the reconstruction would be ordered and partly paid for by the feds, using existing contracts as leverage to force businesses to comply.

But what McKibben also points out is that after the war had ended, “solidarity gave way to the biggest boom in personal consumption the world had ever seen.” After WWII, materialism was our reward for war’s deprivations.

This time, a boom after “defeating” the climate could lead to even bigger disasters.

McKibben’s right that we need an all out effort to address climate change, but it’s only one solution to the mess we’ve created from our out-of-control consumerism. There’s also the Texas-sized island of plastic swirling in the Pacific Ocean, the jaw-dropping species extinctions, the lethal pollution and toxic chemicals and threatened water supplies. If we simply convert to clean energy without addressing the underlying causes of over-consumption and disregard for the earth, we’ll continue to face the same level of global emergency as climate presents now.

To be clear, the climate is not attacking us and it’s not our enemy. That’s the same twisted philosophy that got us here in the first place, where nature is other rather than part of a single system of which we are a part.

Rebecca Solnit, environmental activist, historian and the author of fifteen books, explains climate justice in this week’s Guardian. Her article on the Dakota Pipeline protests asks, “Is this a new civil rights movement where environmental and human rights meet?” Rather than wage war against climate change, she writes about joining forces with the Native American civil rights movement, as is being done successfully in South Dakota and for years up and down the Pacific Northwest coast.

Like McKibben’s war argument, climate justice is not a new concept. I wrote about it in 2010 for CSRHub.com in a story about the Native Alaskan Village of Kivalina suing big oil for melting their permafrost. I also wrote about the Occupy movement’s Climate Justice day in the Huffington Post: “Environmentalists are defining how environmental destruction and economic inequality are closely connected.”

The concept goes all the way back to Chief Seattle, who is quoted as having said, ““Humankind has not woven the web of life. We are but one thread within it. Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves.”

Civil rights are being extended bit by bit to include all of humankind, and those movements will continue. Now we have to expand that same justice and compassion to all life on earth, finding ways to protect the earth and each other while diminishing our need for stuff.

We may need a war-like effort to switch to renewables, but comparing the climate crisis to waging war doesn’t move us forward. We need to heal our environment and, within our environment, ourselves. It’s a change in values that will be a much tougher “war” to win than the one McKibben proposes.

Photo courtesy of  Fibonacci Blue via Flickr CC.

Carol2Carol Pierson Holding is President and Founder, Holding Associates. Carol serves as Guest Blogger for CSRHub. Her firm has focused on the intersection of brand and social responsibility, working with Cisco Systems, Wilmington Trust, Bankrate.com, the US EPA, Yale University’s School of Environmental Sciences, and various non-profits. Before founding Holding Associates, Carol worked in executive management positions at Siegel & Gale, McCann Erickson, and Citibank. She is a Board Member of AMREF (African Medical and Research Foundation). Carol received her AB from Smith College and her MBA from Harvard University.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and rankings information on 16,495+ companies from 135 industries in 133 countries. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.

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[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in climate change, Dakota Pipeline, renewables, Uncategorized, Rebecca Solnit, A World At War, Bill McKibben, Carol Pierson Holding, CSRHub, species extinctions, Ta-Nehisi Coates

CSRHub COO and Cofounder Cynthia Figge Joins Impact Conference at Sustainatopia

[fa icon="calendar'] Apr 27, 2016 10:28:16 AM / by Cynthia Figge

Sustainatopia 2016

CSRHub COO and Cofounder Cynthia Figge will be speaking at the Annual Impact Conference at Sustainatopia on Monday, May 2nd in San Francisco, California. The session will discuss Driving Impact & Robust Returns Through Renewables.

The Impact Conference at Sustainatopia 2015 will be one of the best opportunities to learn, network, and connect with hundreds of top global impact leaders and organizations.

Monday, May 2nd 2:30 PM – 3:30 PM

Driving Impact & Robust Returns Through Renewables

  • Chris Warren, Clean Energy Advisors
  • Erik Melang, Clean Energy Advisors
  • Cynthia Figge, CSRHub

The Impact Conference is part of Sustainatopia, one of the largest events in the world for financial, social and environmental sustainability. For more information on the event, click here.

Cynthia Figge, Co-founder and COO of CSRHubCynthia Figge is a forerunner and thought leader in the corporate sustainability movement who co-founded EKOS International in 1996, one of the first consultancies integrating sustainability and corporate strategy. Cynthia is COO and Cofounder of CSRHub. Cynthia has worked with major organizations including BNSF, Boeing, Coca-Cola, Dow Jones, and REI to help craft sustainability strategy integrated with business. She was an Officer of LIN Broadcasting/McCaw Cellular leading new services development, and started a new “Greenfield” mill with Weyerhaeuser. She serves as Advisor to media and technology companies, and served as President of the Board of Sustainable Seattle. Cynthia has an MBA from Harvard Business School. Cynthia is based in the Seattle area. 

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[fa icon="comment"] 0 Comments posted in Cynthia Figge, environmental sustainability, financial, social, renewables, Uncategorized, Impact Conference, CSRHub, Sustainatopia

UN Figueras to HBS Alums: Elites Can Change the World…And Invest in Change

[fa icon="calendar'] Sep 23, 2014 10:32:58 AM / by Carol Pierson Holding

By Carol Pierson Holding and Cynthia Figge

We are inspired by a call with Harvard Business School alumni, Dan Abbasi, low carbon Harvard Business Schoolinvestor and executive producer of the Emmy-winning television series on climate change called “Years of Living Dangerously,” and Christiana Figueres, Executive Secretary, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Fifty of us listened as Figueres briefed us on the status of climate change action and expectations for the UN talks this week. She and Dan Abbasi were engaging with elite members of the business community to encourage us to apply pressure wherever possible to global leaders coming together on Tuesday to tackle this issue. It was meaningful to us because it marks the first time we’ve been networked with other HBS grads for social action related to climate change.

Why start with an NGO effort like the UN climate talks? In Abbasi’s words,

“The climate change issue has suffered from a serious diffusion of responsibility and resulting inaction – business is waiting for government to act, and government is waiting for business to give them permission.”


In other words, we need to move both at once to effect timely action on the climate, to keep global temperatures within the limits of human safety.

We have to say, it’s heartening to hear from this contingent when so many of our fellow graduates seem to be deep in the deny or postpone camp.

Abbasi’s main carrot for calling this group together was to show “the huge opportunity to put capital to work very profitably” and to “use the HBS network to be a force for social change that it already is.” And of course the stick will be carbon pricing. Along the way, Figueres was able to make several points that elucidated these motivational pillars:

  • $9 trillion is needed for clean energy infrastructure – the largest investment opportunity in our history.
  • China is in the lead in this transition with huge wind and solar commitments for the future. Even now, it produces double the European Union in energy from wind and has started development of a solar plant that will yield as many gigawatts as a nuclear facility. China is also helping other countries to make the transition, investing in Australia’s plan for renewables in the Pacific Islands.
  • Being the most vulnerable to climate change, ocean-dependent nations are the first to make the transition. For example, Samoa will be completely transitioned to renewables by 2016, proving it can be done.
  • Forty countries have carbon pricing in place now, plus seven pilots in China, several around the US (California for one) and elsewhere. Global carbon pricing should happen quickly once China aggregates its regional carbon pricing plans into a single national price, a price that will be easy for others around the globe to adopt as well.
  • Public opinion and an engaged citizenry is critical to these efforts. It was the outrage of China’s public over health risks of its extreme air pollution that moved that country. Here in the U.S., the People’s Climate March on Sunday the largest call for climate action in history, makes it visible to our government and UN representatives how widespread public support is.
  • The elite can exert their influence in targeted calls to government leaders and in sustainable business practices in their personal and professional lives, changes that will move sustainable behavior to the mainstream.

Abassi closed with a statement that climate change should not be a political issue, but an investment issue. The stick was left hanging, but as we learned years ago at the Women’s Network for a Sustainable Future, smart companies like Dupont have been using their own internal carbon pricing for years, preparing for what they believe is the inevitable future. And by examining CSRHub’s ratings on Energy and Climate Change, as businesspeople, we can compare how companies are performing in this area, and take action.

Why was this confab so important? This is the start of an organized effort by the business elite to tackle the issue of climate change. That a small band of HBS alumni has started to build a movement is as thrilling as the global climate march. Climate change advocates already include such prominent business leaders as Michael Bloomberg and Henry Paulson, but they are outliers among Wall Street Journal readers who roundly deny or even mock efforts to address climate change. This inaugural meeting of HBS supporters could eventually change minds, moving our work to the mainstream of the business elite as well.

Carol Pierson HoldingCarol Pierson Holding writes on environmental issues and social responsibility for policy and news publications, including the Carnegie Council's Policy Innovations, Harvard Business Review, San Francisco Chronicle, India Time, The Huffington Post and many other web sites. Her articles on corporate social responsibility can be found on CSRHub.com, a website that provides sustainability ratings data on 9,300+ companies worldwide. Carol holds degrees from Smith College and Harvard University.

Cynthia FiggeCynthia Figge is a forerunner and thought leader in the corporate sustainability movement. She is COO and Cofounder of CSRHub, the world’s largest database that aggregates and organizes data and knowledge on the social, environmental, and governance performance of 9,300 companies to provide sustainability ratings to the marketplace. In 1996 she co-founded EKOS International, one of the first consultancies integrating sustainability and corporate strategy. Prior to founding EKOS, she was an officer of LIN Broadcasting / McCaw Cellular, and led new businesses and services with Weyerhaeuser, New York Daily News; and with New Ventures. Cynthia is Board Director of the Compassionate Action Network International. Cynthia received her bachelor's degree in Economics and an MBA from the Harvard Business School. She lives in the Seattle area.

CSRHub provides access to corporate social responsibility and sustainability ratings and information on 9,300+ companies from 135 industries in 106 countries. By aggregating and normalizing the information from 343 data sources, CSRHub has created a broad, consistent rating system and a searchable database that links millions of rating elements back to their source. Managers, researchers and activists use CSRHub to benchmark company performance, learn how stakeholders evaluate company CSR practices and seek ways to change the world.


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[fa icon="comment"] 1 Comment posted in climate change, Cynthia Figge, Dan Abbasi, Harvard Business School, HBS, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Cha, renewables, Uncategorized, UN, Carol Pierson Holding, Christiana Figueras

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