As CEO of Patagonia, I have seen first-hand how collaboration between businesses can drive climate justice - and it's what we'll need to build a sustainable future in the 2020s
- Rose Marcario is the president and CEO of the outdoor apparel company Patagonia, and is one of Business Insider's 100 People Transforming Business.
- Under Marcario, Patagonia has sued the Trump administration for reducing the size of a national park and led a successful boycott against the location of a trade show due to support for that policy, refused making corporate gear for any company without a significant sustainability policy, helped spread a regenerative agriculture practice to other companies, and has continued co-leading the Sustainable Apparel Coalition. During this time, she has also significantly grown Patagonia's business.
- In this editorial, she calls for American businesses to both collaborate with and demand more of each other when it comes to sustainability initiatives, and cites B Lab's work toward this. She said that the 2020s can be the decade when companies can finally achieve real change, collectively.
- This article is part of BI's project "The 2010s: Toward a Better Capitalism."
- The Better Capitalism series tracks the ways companies and individuals are rethinking the economy and role of business in society.
- Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.
The climate crisis may be the hardest test humanity has ever faced - the next 10 years will determine whether we pass or fail. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change recently confirmed, it will be impossible to stop global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius if we don't drastically reduce emissions by 2030. The consequences will be inconceivable and irreversible.
There is no doubt this crisis is too big for any of us to solve alone. But in the final year of this decade, we've seen a significant and stirring uptick in climate activism that offers some hope that we can do it together. Youth activists around the world, inspired by Greta Thunberg's Friday strikes, are galvanizing climate action at a scale and consistency never before seen. These young people have led marches, walkouts, protests, and other demonstrations that have brought together tens of millions of people, of all ages and backgrounds, to demand an immediate response to the climate crisis.
More and more companies are also realizing that if they help prevent the planet from burning, they can keep their businesses from burning down, too. When President Donald Trump began the withdrawal process for the United States from the Paris Climate Agreement in November, thousands of leaders, from governors to university presidents, announced they would stick to their commitments. Soon after, CEOs of 75 companies and the AFL-CIO re-upped their support. And when Trump tried to roll back fuel efficiency standards, some of the biggest car makers said they would hold themselves to the higher standards anyway.
In the next decade, we're going to need decisive and meaningful action from companies across all sectors of the economy. Splashy marketing campaigns and press release promises won't be enough - we need real, certifiable results such as the greening of supply chains and meaningful emissions reductions, and solutions to draw down carbon. Companies will have to follow through on the promises they've already made and expand on them. Banks and capital markets will be called to account and answer to whether they are complicit in the drilling and destruction of our last wild places. Those that stay on the sidelines will face a rising generation of activists committed to pushing them to join the fight.
We're living in a world where business is responsible for more than 60% of the pollution of our air, our water, and our land, and yet businesses take very little responsibility. As corporate leaders, we should look for more opportunities to partner with each other, learn from each other, and demand more of each other. This is one of the reasons Patagonia is a benefit corporation, because this idea that business is somehow bifurcated from the rest of life and has no responsibility to the environment and social good is total crap.
Critically, we must demand more of our elected leaders, too. A handful of world leaders are standing in the way of the progress that millions of people are demanding. Change here in America will only happen this coming November if we work hard and join together to make clear that there is no room in government for climate deniers.
Despite the dire threats facing our planet, there is reason to be hopeful: The 2020s could be the decade where we invest in the future, not rob from it. The coming years could see innovation and collaboration providing solutions to our biggest global challenges. We know the answers - we just need the courage needed to act on them. We must have the confidence that our best years are ahead of us.
More from "The 2010s: Toward a Better Capitalism"
Big countries are refusing to tackle climate change, so companies are stepping in. Take an exclusive look at a tool the UN hopes will revolutionize the way these businesses track sustainability goals.
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author(s).
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