Environmental Accountability: Ensuring Corporations Practice Sustainability Is Key to Climate Movement
by Julia McCoy ’22
Asst. Opinion Editor
As Earth Day approaches, many people are encouraging sustainable practices and ways to live a more earth-conscious life. Here at Providence College, EcoPC is promoting an Earth Day Challenge for the month leading up to Earth Day, in which they encourage students to use a reusable water bottle or straw, watch an informative documentary, or learn about gardening and food waste. While these projects are great ways to remind people about what they can do to help themselves and the earth, there are larger hurdles that can not be overcome with just a metal straw.
For years, individuals have been asked to do their part to make their carbon footprint smaller. This means that the blame and guilt of a dying environment has been put on the individuals who were not involved in producing the carbon emissions that caused the most climate issues.
Instead, that blame should fall to the big corporations who not only make up 70% of carbon emissions, but also have known of their involvement for decades before the public was made aware. In 2015, a report was released that companies like Exxon knew about their impact on the environment, but actively chose to ignore it.
For decades, with that knowledge, these companies allowed individuals to take the blame for the climate crisis. Additionally, they continued to push back against legislation that would have held them accountable.
Not only does this remind us of the lucrative political power of large corporations, it also begs the question of what could have been done to prevent this dire situation if companies had been open and honest about the impact they had on the changing environment.
But now that this information is readily available, people should not settle for an apology or a press release discussing “long-term” solutions. Rather, the narrative should simply be reversed. The public, who have been guilted for something as simple as drinking from a plastic water bottle, should hold corporations accountable for their actions and failure to respond morally.
Environmental biology major Julia Abbott ’22 agrees that there needs to be action from all aspects of society. Abbott said, “Although individual people should still use their own platforms and actions to increase sustainability, it is up to more powerful corporations to head these movements and fix their mistakes.”
Additionally, the resources and money available to corporations provide them a better opportunity to enact quick change. Although some individuals are committed to leaving a small carbon footprint, others in lower-income communities are not as capable of changing the way they live. And they should not be expected to, since the vast majority of climate issues are not their fault.
On the other hand, companies like Exxon have the means to tackle their own threatening practices. And, more importantly, they have a moral obligation to. After failing to share the vital information that they had for years—not to mention actively working to continue this abuse—these companies are responsible for the blame and climate reparations that could only begin to help the environment.
Overall, it is important to note that individual sustainable practices are helpful. Though it would take a much higher percentage of the population to make these practices incredibly effective, the use of metal straws, composting, and thrifting can impact your individual life and the larger community as a whole because it endorses and advertises climate-friendly practices. It also slowly pushes companies to get involved.
However, in order to make powerful, sweeping changes, the people should begin to press those companies that have been most culpable for these issues. By putting large-scale blame and attention on their errors, they may finally be forced to do something positively impactful.