From multilateral frameworks to corporate initiatives and individual contributions, the range of efforts to confront one of the greatest crises of our times – global climate change – is wide and varied. Yet to foster a transition that adequately protects us against the growing ecological, social, and economic consequences of climate change, the current pace and intention of efforts is too slow. It is not that there is no awareness among decision makers in politics and business that confronting climate change requires bold measures, but that by and large they remain hesitant to act, partly out of fear of costs, competitive (dis)advantages, and political opposition.
Building upon my extensive research with corporations, business elites, workers, farmers, and so forth, as well as knowledge of the global economy and finance, I believe that there is more room for manoeuvre in redesigning our economic and social systems than is often considered. However, addressing the intersection of climate change and socioeconomic inequalities is essential in order to move forward. Finding common ground regarding how to equally share the costs of the transition will not only encourage broader engagement with the need to fundamentally alter economic structures, but will also help financial institutions, corporations, government agencies, political parties, and so forth to better imagine alternative forms of operations.
To investigate how – and why – to mitigate tensions between climate change and socioeconomic divergences, I propose that institutions honestly engage with the various actors relevant to their positionings. Whether these actors are employees, customers, banks, shareholders, companies/projects one invests in, civil society, farmers, etc., giving them a voice will help us to better understand their concerns, fears, innermost thoughts, and visions of a future world in the context of climate change. It may reveal that, notwithstanding variation between these actors, there is more common ground that binds them than may appear at first sight, as many increasingly realise that doing too little to combat climate change will entail significant financial and social costs. Following from this, they probably do not fundamentally reject adaptations to climate change, yet they want securities that can guarantee an equitable level of wellbeing, health, freedom, and happiness, as well as a relatively equal sharing of the costs of adaptation within society.
Subsequently, with profound knowledge of the common ground, imaginaries of the future, and commitments to the transition of actors relevant to their operations, banks, insurance companies, corporations, political parties, etc. will be better positioned to adapt their organisations and strategies to the future. Awareness that there is wide support for committing to the transition when the intersection of climate change and socioeconomic inequalities receives more attention may, for example, allow an institution to realise that increasing its own commitment does not necessarily jeopardise its foundation. This is especially so when the insights obtained are also shared with political decision makers, in order to allow them to design climate-related policies and regulations committed to the concerns of all, including those of the respective institution.
Without doubt, the reflective engagement I recommend with the variety of concerns that relevant actors may have, and how these may reshape one’s strategies and operations, may not be a case of ‘business as usual’. Yet creative thinking about alternative forms of economic and social organisation is greatly needed to face the many challenges ahead. This will not be an easy and straightforward path, and should best be perceived as a journey – a journey that may be bumpy and requires us to address uncomfortable truths, though one that gradually works towards a transformed society (and economy) that not only mitigates climate change, but also provides a more agreeable place to live. For further discussion about how I can support you in this journey, please email me at: email@example.com