Corporate environmentalism and making money by polluting the ecosystems is a dichotomy, which has been debated over the last several decades. It is still questionable whether the gap between making money and saving the environment is narrowing down.
Undeniably, the economic growth is inspired by industrial revolution, growth of capitalism, improved working conditions and general wellbeing of the people.
But there is a price we are paying: the pollution of water, air and soil. Significant pollution has also been incurred to the environment by industrial accidents over centuries and we have countless examples of these in our recent memory.
Nevertheless, this piece is not about finger-pointing or blaming the industries who have been the major contributors to the damage to our environment. On the contrary, I would argue that there have been major changes in corporate attitude towards environmental responsibility over the last 25 years.
Industries have shown far better responsibilities towards environmental protection. Yet, winning the public trust and confidence has been harder, and in many cases, businesses are continuously experiencing an uphill task to win customers' hearts.
It is often debated whether the big businesses are locked into a vicious cycle of self-interests, politics and ideologies, which would eventually decide the fate of our planet's natural resources. I do not think for a single moment that big businesses have suddenly woken up and become more environmentally conscious.
Another supposed dichotomy that has become blurred is the distinction between green consciousness and corporate honesty. It may invert our traditional mindset, but we can say that the wind is blowing in the right direction.
Many businesses have realised that there are scopes to increase financial bottom line by going green and this has eventually triggered them to change their attitudes.
Destined to perpetual profits, one might, therefore, wonder where ecological modernisation fits into the corporate behaviour and practices. Ecological modernisation is a simple concept that links ecology with the economy.
It is an innovation-based approach to environmental policy. More specifically, ecological modernisation combines the natural market logic of modernisation with eco-innovation. This is driving businesses to ponder global environmental concerns.
Big businesses are in a unique position to adhere to this concept. They are developing eco-friendly innovative solutions, making money and at the same time trying to mitigate the impacts of environmental pollution.
It is almost impossible to separate the connection between corporate environmentalism and ecological modernisation. Producing environmentally responsible products and achieving carbon neutrality are the new mantra in the world today. Many of these green values are being embedded within the DNA of many business organisations.
The penchant for innovation is extraordinary in humans. Finding new technologies to resolve problems is a cachet of genius. We are witnessing the marvels of technology in our lifetime, whether it is information technology, artificial intelligence, genetic engineering and/or cyborg engineering. The list goes on.
It can also be argued that the present primacy is no guarantee for the future primacy. Despite this, it is natural to ask a sensible question, "What will we do with all technological advancement if we cannot even save ourselves from an existential threat to humanity, i.e., climate change?"
Climate change is affecting everybody. Increased heat-trapping gases such as CO2 mean increased global temperature. The impacts of rising temperatures are already well known. It is marked in particular by the biophysical consequences, e.g., stronger cyclones, increased coastal floodings, frequent droughts, freshwater scarcity and increased water salinity.
These biophysical consequences will continue to affect people and their livelihoods. The world economy across sectors and human development would suffer because of the changing weather. It is such a global problem that a collective technological approach would be required in the fight against climate change.
"Necessity is the mother of invention" is a well-known proverb and there is no better way to put it into this context. What is our biggest necessity in the face of drastic climate change in the 21st century? The answer to that question is unequivocal: green innovation and technological changes to combat climate change and its impacts.
The above point can be illustrated by a brief example. Think about the packaging waste, which is one of the top environmental issues in recent times.
We throw packaging waste of which most cannot be recycled. Our aim should be 'less packaging'. The packaging materials should be designed in a way that it could be reused, recycled or even quickly decomposed into natural materials.
So, eco-innovation is the key factor in this regard.
I believe big businesses lie at the heart of the new technological innovation. A convenient starting point would be to drive green innovation which would touch the fundamentals of sustainable business practices with the aim of reduced waste and innovative manufacturing processes.
It is also important to encourage the entire supply chain as well as their customers to drive the green technological innovation to achieve similar benefits.
By doing this, it is possible to bring everyone on board within the sustainability obligations. And businesses that are unable to innovate and modernise perhaps will be left to wither.
In brief, corporate environmentalism and ecological modernisation show a strong bond of compatibility. This will eventually help to reduce human vulnerability against the adverse effects of climate change. It will also help in supporting adaptation and mitigation responses to the climate crisis.
Yousuf Jamil is a Bangladeshi environmentalist living in the UK. He can be reached at email@example.com.