Op-Ed: Here’s how companies can strong-arm their suppliers into cutting carbon emissions
In the world of corporate greenwashing, sustainability is being deployed as a smokescreen and used as a cudgel by businesses to hide the realities of their dirty behavior. In the United States, for example, the government is requiring that companies disclose their policies for the future. Yet, as these policies are introduced, companies are increasingly turning to their suppliers to see what they’re doing to cut the emissions that drive climate change. And with the shift to sustainability taking hold globally, the companies that have a proven track record in reducing greenhouse gas emissions are finding themselves at a competitive disadvantage.
There’s no doubt companies have a responsibility to reduce their environmental impact, but some are doing it to get ahead and cut costs. Companies like Walmart and McDonald’s use this strategy by saying they’re going to make their suppliers more competitive, by reducing the price of their products, or by cutting their operating costs. So what does the end consumer get in return for all the cuts they make through their suppliers? Well, as we’ve reported, when the price of a product goes down, the profits for the company increase. That’s what companies are doing with sustainability — they are using it to increase profits.
But while this may be a business strategy, it’s also part of a broader strategy that puts corporate responsibility and social responsibility at the forefront of our society. As we’ve pointed out before, many corporations are now using both approaches in combination. We’ve seen it recently with the announcement by Nike that it will also use its own branding to push its “Just Do It” sustainability initiative. In other cases, we’ve seen it with the use of social responsibility to lure consumers into buying more.
It’s important to point out, however, that these benefits are not enough to make sustainability a mainstream movement in consumer culture. The idea that environmental responsibility and social responsibility can be packaged as a marketing strategy is flawed. If you believe that companies can use sustainability and social responsibility as a marketing strategy, you’re just kidding yourself. The fact of