Commercialism and branding are often seen as the foe of sustainability and the environment, but these archenemies of all things Eco could be harnessed to create the wealth to aid social progress. Corporations have never been stronger, more influential or well known (via their brands). The larger they become, the more they are accountable for in social, economic and environmental terms. Businesses have even more responsibility than governments and have even greater potential than governments in eliciting social change. January this year, Maersk Line became the first huge corporation, first shipping line, and very probably the first entity to both reach and beat its CO2 reduction targets eight years ahead of schedule. Now, the world’s biggest container line aims to reduce emissions by 40% by 2020. This achievement is a wake up call. For the whole world.
Not only are corporations less tainted with the power struggles apparent in government when forming policies, but each corporation’s ‘sphere of influence’ is substantially smaller than governments’ – meaning it is much more likely that all people in that sphere will benefit from any initiatives set out by that company: it is easier to provide health care for thousands rather than millions, for example. The Danish welfare system – with its population of a mere 5 million – is a case in point. And Denmark’s Maersk Group is now a dab hand on how to operate in humane ways – winning countless awards for all sorts of activities within CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility, doncha’ know), including for their sustainability report a few years back: well ahead of trend.
Another huge advantage that companies have over governments is that the consumer has chosen the company’s brand and product. Any money given to that company via the sale of those products is done so willingly. Not so with voting where the winning party may only have half the country’s support. Neither so with taxes where the products in question (public services) are often intangible. The Danish welfare system is a case in point yet again – most Danes pay their taxes very willingly because they know they are going to get something very good in exchange for their dollar.
This illustrates just how important sustainability and social responsibility are for each and every company, small and large. The world was not always ruled by political governments. Is The Corporation next in line to the throne of institutions that no longer seek to control, but look after, the people of a necessarily chaotic world?
All images courtesy Maersk Line