Do corporations lead or do they follow? Do they push government or do they work within whatever legal frameworks are of the day?
Of course, they do all of the above. They always have. And in the process they have been crucial cogs of progress – much of it good, but not all. That is now changing. Corporations will remain as engines of growth and innovation but increasingly they find themselves partners in a mission that must transcend the traditional push-and-pull over regulation and taxation that has characterised the relationship between government and business. There’s a bigger goal here; the energy transition. And there’s no time left to pull in opposite directions.
In this new partnership – which will doubtlessly have its ups and downs – corporations are uniquely positioned in the fight against climate change. Unlike governments, they often cross state lines and national borders, influencing people across the globe. The biggest corporations wield great economic power, and have the flexibility to implement sustainability projects on a faster time scale than many governmental programmes. They influence culture, the economy and people’s purchasing choices.
But corporations are, more than ever, the people who work at these companies. And they are the customers who consume their goods and services. And both constituencies have values that they are less likely to compromise on than at any point in our history. They insist on corporate ethics, a commitment to diversity, equity and social responsibility. Climate, racial justice, inclusion – these issues and more are now baked into what a corporation is and must be. In our current climate, the corporations not only have the power, but they have a responsibility to safeguard the planet and the people on it. And never before have corporations embraced – sometimes slowly, often imperfectly – this new responsibility.
In this event we looked at how corporations are changing and must change more as we journey from 2022 to 2050 – and beyond.