Final Analysis: Change the Corporate Climate

Because wouldn't you rather live on a sexy planet?

By John Levesque December 21, 2015


Lets hear it for the Breakthrough Energy Coalition!

Its rad. Its rockin. Its righteous.

Its a bunch of rich guys pledging to invest billions to find a faster way to meet the energy needs of a growing planet without contributing to climate change.

Bill Gates announced the coalition on the eve of the United Nations Conference on Climate Change in December. It attracted headlines because, well, Bill Gates tends to do that. Some of his partners in the coalition are Jeff Bezos, Richard Branson, Jack Ma and Mark Zuckerberg. So theres that.

But on the sexy-meter, where the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue registers a 10 and IRS Form 1363 registers a zero, the Breakthrough Energy Coalition needs a feather-bedecked, thong-clad, bustier-enhanced Victorias Secret model twirling her bodacious carbon credits just to move the needle.

Why is that?

In a country that seems to have a voracious appetite for the madcap ravings of a bloviating narcissist who wants to bring this country into the sixth century Im looking at you, Donald Trump why is there no great appetite for addressing climate change? Certainly its not as goofy a topic as building a wall along the Mexican border or forcing all people of a certain religion to carry identity papers.

It would be easy to blame the media. Trump does it all the time. But, as I said, Gates announcement of the coalition actually made the news. The problem is that, like the most recent shooting by a domestic terrorist who cant possibly be a terrorist because hes American and Christian, news of the coalition quickly receded from the headlines and from our collective consciousness.

We are inured to calls for action on climate change the way Seattleites are hardened to the realities of a mediocre baseball team.

So how can normal people change the conversation?

We could start in the workplace. Every company has an environmental impact on the planet from turning on the lights in the morning to throwing out the trash at night. A week before Gates announced his high-rollers coalition, Microsoft the company where Gates used to work announced it was buying 35,000 carbon-offset credits, which will facilitate the protection of 520 acres of forestland near Mount Rainier owned by the Nisqually Land Trust.

A California carbon credit was selling for just under $13 in late November, when the sale was announced, so Microsoft paid the Nisqually Land Trust at least $450,000 to keep the forest growing and thriving and sequestering carbon. Nisqually Land Trust had registered the land with Californias Compliance Offset Program Washington state doesnt have a carbon-offset program and Microsoft, which has bought carbon offsets around the world to fulfill its pledge to be carbon neutral, apparently liked the idea of investing in its own backyard.

What a concept! Since the world is changed by our example not our opinion wouldnt it be great if every company followed Microsofts lead? Not every firm can afford to commit half a million dollars to ease the impact of its carbon footprint, but in a world that is generating CO2 faster than Donald Trump generates forehead slaps, surely every firm can cobble together something to help forests sequester more carbon. At the very least, they could make the HVAC systems in their buildings more efficient.

We may not have the big bucks to join Bill Gates Breakthrough Energy Coalition, but if each of us can persuade one company to step up its game, we just might make this planet sexy again.

John Levesque is the managing editor of Seattle Business magazine. Reach him at [email protected].

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