5 Fixes for Dangerous Wealth Inequality

U.S. wealth gap My last blog was about fixing risky and unsustainable income inequality. Its twin problem is a dangerous wealth chasm between the haves and have-nots. Wealth inequality is related to, but different from, income inequality. Income is what we earn every year; wealth is how much our estate would be worth if we were to die tonight. It’s our net worth, calculated by subtracting our liabilities and debts from our assets. Income inequity is a corporate social responsibility (CSR) issue; the wealth chasm is closely tied to CSR because the super-wealthy are corporate executives. The ultra-rich are staggeringly wealthy. A recent Oxfam report revealed that the richest 85 people in the world are as wealthy as the poorest half of the world—that is, their $1.8 trillion is equal to the net worth of 3.5 billion people. Further, the wealthiest 1% own $110 trillion, or 65 times as much as the poorest half of the world. Read More

4 Fixes for Risky Income Inequality

inequality A companion debate to how much employees should be paid (see my last blog) is what the ratio of CEO pay to average worker pay should be. The debate usually centers on three questions: what is the ratio now, what should it be, and what steps can be taken to get us closer to what it should be? There may also be a fourth question: how large can the ratio become before the inequity damages economic growth and social cohesion? In this blog, I'll discuss 4 fixes for this risky income inequality. Read More

Pay Employees at Least a Fair Living Wage

fair wage Here is another breakthrough corporate CSR idea; How about paying employees at least a fair living wage? My last blog suggested A Wild and Crazy Corporate CSR Idea: Pay Your Taxes. At the risk of being overly innovative by simply stating the obvious, I humbly suggest a second breakthrough corporate social responsibility (CSR) program: pay all employees at least a Living Wage. Otherwise, corporations may be setting themselves up for public embarrassment, like the report that went viral last October about how McDonald’s US pays its workers below-poverty-line wages while its “McResource” employee help line encourages them to use food stamps and government assistance to make ends meet. That is, McDonald’s wants the government (a.k.a. tax-paying citizens) to top up their paltry workers’ wages. Awkward. McDonald’s has since discontinued its McResource. Read More

A Wild and Crazy Corporate CSR Idea: Pay Your Taxes

tax time Ahhhh, April. Finally spring is arriving - the time when a young man’s fancy turns to love … and the rest of us think about taxes. Damn. Here's a wild and crazy corporate CSR idea, pay your taxes! No one enjoys paying taxes. You don’t. I don’t. Companies don’t either. But it’s our civic duty. Without tax revenues, governments cannot provide us with the health, education, safety, security, and infrastructure services that are vital to our well-being in a flourishing society. Taxes are a necessary and a good thing. Corporate taxes are vital. However, over the past 50 years, the share of tax revenue coming to the federal government from business has collapsed. According to the U.S. Tax Policy Center, corporate taxes represented 32% of U.S. federal government revenues in 1953; 23% in 1966; 12% in 1998; and 9% in 2010. There seems to be trend. Read More

3 Reasons to Screen Energy Companies from Rankings

sustainability champion Did you notice anything strange about the latest Global 100 rankings and the Climate Counts rankings? The January 2014 Global 100 ranking of the world’s 100 most sustainable large publically traded companies included ten oil and gas companies. The December 2013 Climate Counts rankings of corporations with the most sustainable carbon emissions included five oil and gas companies. What the ...?! There are 3 reasons that inclusion of oil and gas companies in these rankings doesn’t pass the gut check. Read More

3 Reasons I Love the WEF “Global Risks 2014” Report

  sword of damocles copy In my last blog, I declared that it was time for sustainability champions to unleash three risk arguments for more proactive action on climate change. Last week, I discovered a goldmine of support for the company-level and society-level risk arguments in the debate about climate destabilization: a new report from the World Economic Forum (WEF), “Global Risks 2014.” There are three reasons that I am excited about this report. Read More

Unleashing 3 Risk Arguments in the Climate Debate

environment and risk management Any good business case for doing something new or different has two components: opportunity and risk. Governments, companies, communities, and people like you and me need to justify why we change: what’s the upside if we do (opportunity), and what’s the downside if we don’t (risk). When it comes to convincing companies to be more sustainable, we’ve done a good job on the opportunity side. We need to be smarter on the risk side. Below are 3 risk arguments in the climate debate. For twelve years, my focus has been on helping companies to size the benefits (opportunity) of sustainability-oriented strategies. Any company can use the free dashboard and spreadsheets on my website to size its potential bottom-line benefits from aggressive sustainability-related strategies. They will find that if a typical company were to use best-practice sustainability approaches already being used by real companies, it could improve its profit by at least 51 to 81 percent within three to five years. The opportunity side of the business case is robust. Read More

CO2 – Why 450 ppm is Dangerous and 350 ppm is Safe

dangers of elevated CO2 In my October 29, 2013, blog, Stranded Assets or Stranded Humanity. Choose One, I reviewed the math that supports leaving 80% of known fossil fuel reserves in the ground. That would allow us to limit the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere to 450 ppm (parts per million) and have a 50:50 chance of limiting global warming to 2°C. Now scientists are telling us that this is a very dangerous and irresponsible strategy. In September 2013, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the international body for assessing the science related to climate change, released its fifth assessment report. Authored by 250 climate scientists from 39 countries, it states: “It is extremely likely that human influence has been the dominant cause of observed warming since the mid-20th century.”The IPCC report goes on to describe the cumulative effect of our carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. Read More

A 12-Step Program for Our Fossil Fuel Dependency

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

PwC released its Low Carbon Economy Index 2013 last week. It confirms that we will reach the tipping point for climate destabilization by 2034 unless we end our fossil fuel addiction. And, in an interview with Alternet last month, Rob Hopkins, founder of the Transition Network, said: “It feels like the world has gone from ‘there’s no problem’ to saying ‘it’s too late,’ without the bit in the middle: ‘maybe we can actually do something.’” This blog is about the bit the middle. It lays out a 12-step program that will transition us to a clean energy economy if we are serious and smart about how we stage the steps during the transition. These findings reinforce the stark choice that I laid out in my last blog: Stranded Assets or Stranded Humanity – Choose One. But if we choose not to bring fossil fuel reserves to market, what is our plan to wean ourselves off our addiction to oil and gas while protecting our quality of life? Here are the 12 steps. Read More

Stranded Assets or Stranded Humanity – Choose one

Bob Willard - Sustainability Expert In Canada, we are witnessing a false debate: which is safer; shipping diluted bitumen (dilbit) by pipeline or by train? Pipeline proponents point to recent train derailment disasters as evidence that the pipelines are safer. Rail proponents point to recent pipeline spills as evidence that trains are safer. We’re overlooking a third, alternative: don’t ship dilbit at all. Leave the bitumen in the oil sands. Write them off as stranded assets. In fact, the stranded asset alternative is our only sane choice. As shown in this figure, Bill McGibbon and his Do the Math folks help us understand why. Climate scientists and world leaders agree on at least one thing: we cannot allow the average global temperature to increase above 2°C. Even at that temperature, we only have a 50:50 chance of avoiding runaway climate destabilization. Read More