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Corporate Guilt and Carbon Footprint

Updated: Aug 15, 2021

Seeing a go green campaign these days is not uncommon. Almost all airline companies are doing something to be more sustainable, zero waste. Every make up brand is sourcing ethically and sustainably. Household necessities such as fridges and electrical kettles are sold with power saving features or lower voltage. Agriculture industry are even involved in the campaign by promoting organic agriculture by using the rain as natural water source for the crops or using alternatives such as hydroponic farming. There are also movements in real estate with manufacturers designing green housing or green cities. It's safe to say that customers have a higher probability of receiving a marketing campaign that highlights the choice they make is the solution to the issue.

Honestly, it's a great tactic for the companies. They are able to reap more profits by selling 'green' products while diverting the burden on the consumers of their goods (not to mention if these goods are actually 'green-washed' products). You can consider that the blame is equal on both sides of the coin. However, it is painfully apparent that these big corporations are creating more harmful impact on the environment that almost all the population on Earth combined.

But why are they doing this, and why are we the ones shouldering the burden? Well, it all links back to corporate guilt.

So many 'go green' campaigns underlines that the solution starts with you. The sentiment is not wholly incorrect, the solution does start with you. However, the solution also depends on the corporate executive decision. They are the biggest figures in this issue, and without their commitment to change, there may be little to no changes we will observe anytime soon.

As consumers, we are encouraged to always stay aware and woke about current issues. We are expected to sympathize and understand all the environmental issues that are currently happening. However, don't you think these expectations are too much? As consumers, we can do so much to spare our thoughts on issues outside of their personal lives. There are more people in this world that can barely spare a second to think, much less to care about the projection of where Earth's climate is going.

This is why there should be a collective understanding that because not every single person on this planet can think about these issues, it's up to the stakeholders and people with influence to start the conversation about change. However, it's easier for these big figures to actually shift the blame on the consumers who are buying their products and using that guilt to offset their responsibilities on other people. These brands can wipe their hands clean off any carbon footprint if all their customers choose the more sustainable alternative. Realistically, 100% consumption of 'green' products would probably not be reached. However, since these brands are already offering another product that they have marketed as the solution to the environment issue, they've done their duty, right?

Well, that is where they are wrong. Doing this can be considered a smart move. It forces people to be aware of actual environmental issues, but as stated, not everyone has the luxury of being aware. Which makes you wonder if this move is redundant after all?

An article back in 2009 talked about this same issue: offsetting green guilt. Here, the author recalls their experience in encountering this marketing strategy during a flight. Kotchen shared an offer they received to ‘Go without guilt’ during the flight for an additional $3.42 to reduce their carbon footprint.

‘Effectively offset the negative environmental impact of your entire trip.

Go without guilt—Go Zero!’

But, what’s the actual issue if we can reduce our impact and corporate impact towards the environment? It doesn’t hurt to add a few dollars to our purchase so we can go green.

Well, here’s the thing.

If we continue to allow these corporations by choosing these alternatives that they push onto us, alternatives meaning it’s our problem to solve, then there wouldn’t be any accountability to their actions (which is wrong! Everyone should be held accountable for their actions). We could go as far as to say that these corporations may continue to exploit this marketing strategy to wipe their hands clean off of any guilt or responsibility that they should uphold. Plus, giving consumers a choice to pay for our impact or ‘offset’ doesn’t solve the issue. It creates a rebound impact that just further perpetuates the toxic cycle.

Kotchen explains this effect thoroughly:

“Because purchasing offsets is easier than continuing to restrain consumption, even conservationists may use offsets to justify more travel, a bigger car, or (as Al Gore has demonstrated) a larger house. People who prove their environmental credentials by purchasing voluntary carbon offsets may later feel justified to act in less environmentally friendly ways.”

You can read the full article here.

After all these years and multiple campaigns, we can say that this whole conversation around what we, as customers, can do about our carbon footprint is going nowhere. Especially so when the corporations that are marketing these ‘solutions’ are not doing anything to lessen their carbon footprint. So, it's probably time for us to actually look for where the issue lies.

A recent report shows that 100 companies contribute 70% of global carbon emissions. 100 companies are responsible for more than a half of our total global carbon emissions. 100 companies against 7 billion people. It should also come as no surprise when we say that most of these companies are from oil or mining industry. With the amount of oil spills and carbon emissions they produce annually, the question that should be asked now is: how have we survived so far?

However, with this opportunity, we also would like to remind our readers that just because the bigger slice of pie doesn't fall on our plate, doesn't mean we also don't have the share of it. We do use these oil and mining services. Our electricity is still generated by fossil fuel, our gas too. Our car fuel is literally the oil that are now mined from our oceans. So, we still need to do our due diligence of doing what we need to do.

We need to find the middle ground for this issue that lies in the fact that everyone has to act their responsibility towards the environment. This middle ground starts by understanding that we are not the only ones accountable for climate change. A conversation needs to be initiated by our industry on how we can change for the better. How companies can also motivate and inspire other companies to follow and do the same through collaborations. We can no longer turn a blind eye to this plague that is poisoning Earth.

We need to start thinking about the bigger picture and our impact in the long run. Support corporations that are changing and pressure others that have yet to act on their responsibility. Use your privilege of time to educate yourself in these issues. Slip these informations to your friends and spread the awareness.

Remember, we can only do this if we stand in this together. So let’s raise our voice for a better future.

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